Pub date: September 6, 2010
When twelve-year-old Florence boards the crowded horse-drawn coach in London, she looks forward to a new life with her great uncle and aunt at Crutchfield Hall, an old manor house in the English countryside. Anything will be better, she thinks, than the grim London orphanage where she has lived since her parents' death.
But Florence doesn't expect the ghost of her cousin Sophia, who haunts the cavernous rooms and dimly lit hallways of Crutchfield and concocts a plan to use Florence to help her achieve her murderous goals. Will Florence be able to convince the others in the household of the imminent danger and stop Sophia before it's too late? (from netgalley.com, digital review copy provided by HMH via NetGalley)
This truly is a much more traditional Victorian ghost story and I loved it! While it very much carried a Secret Garden element do it with the sickly brother never coming out of his room, that's pretty much where the similarities end.
Florence is stuck in a conundrum, having left her friends at the orphanage to be alone in an old house with a rather doting uncle and an aunt that hates her, not to mention a cousin she never sees and a dead cousin that won't leave her alone. She has no one to complain to and she can't tell her orphanage friends for fear of them thinking she's ungrateful. So what's she to do? Sophia, her tragically dead cousin, won't leave her alone and no one will speak of the horrible cold corners and whispers and laughter. They say it's all in her imagination although they seem very frightened of it.
While the story didn't have me jumping, it certainly had a creep factor to it and for a moment (or maybe even longer), I didn't know how it was going to end. I hate it when I can see the ending coming and with this book, I certainly couldn't. Not really. Hahn leaves puncture wounds in the plot that round out the whole of the story, but there may be a string or two left behind that someone may have forgotten.
Under Sophia's power no one has the ability to control themselves. She controls anyone she wants; it's a power she's always wanted and almost nearly had in life. Sophia's a nasty piece of work and even with the revelation at the end, it's difficult to sympathize with her, which I think is the point. She is a selfish, horrible little girl that was more than willing to sacrifice others for her own means. Aunt is the same way. How she treats Florence is abhorrent and it's hard to NOT sympathize with the poor girl. Years after living in an orphanage and the first place she can call home has someone belittling her every chance they get. How warm!
Even the secondary characters were full of life for how little they showed on the pages. The groundskeeper with his superstitions and the housemaids with their passive yet adamant defense of Florence; it's an awesome cast of characters. Really Aunt and Sophia balance it all out in their wickedness, creating an atmosphere of not only fear but destitution and loneliness. Plus I brewed up some truly horrible images when it was described how the dead Sophia looked. I couldn't help but think of the drawing on one of the Scary Stories books. You know which one I'm talking about. Truly frightening!
If you're looking for a good spook, definitely pick up The Ghost of Crutchfield Hall. It's an old-fashioned ghost story with a modern edge that'll add more fuel to the 'what happens after we die?' fire, for sure.