Sixteen-year-old Gretchen takes pictures to better
understand the world around her. Taught from a young age
about the rules of photography such as asking permission,
by her mother, Mona, before she disappeared. Mona studied
the paranormal in pictures, trying to photograph ghosts and
other events. Gretchen plans to hang out with her camera
and her best friend, Simon for the summer. Until she
receives a phone call from a great aunt Esther she's never
heard of that she's inherited an old mansion in a small
town in upstate New York.
Gretchen travels to her ancestral home to find it
crumbling, filled with papers and rodents and ghosts she
can see. The ghosts want something, but Gretchen doesn't
know what, but they're vicious, lashing out at her.
Esther's moods switch from sane to slightly crazed by the
moment as she ask Gretchen to clean up the house. Gretchen
learns Esther was a famous war photographer in her studio
which is papered with her aunt's photos. Esther and Mona
worked on trying to figure out what the ghosts wanted, but
Esther says it's time for Gretchen to take over. The house
also holds deep, dark family secrets that are somehow
intertwined with her mother's disappearance.
With the help of Esther's young neighbors, Hawk and Hope,
Gretchen must piece together the mystery that dates back to
the Civil War and racial tensions and understand what the
Norah Olson does a nice job at building characters in both
past and present. The present narrative moves forward at a
fairly regular pace, but Olson intersperses journal entries
and letters to tell the story from the past. It works well,
bringing to life the history of time and place without the
narrator having to tell about it. Olson's description of
the house with a haunting mirror, ghosts with strength and
minds of their own make the danger of the house very real.
It's hard to put this story in a genre box: It's a
combination of horror, mystery, historical and paranormal.
We mostly read about racial tensions during the Civil War
in the south, so I appreciated learning that small northern
towns struggled with these issues as well. I look forward
to reading more of Olson's work.
Haunting photographs and dark family secrets make this
second spine-tingling novel from Norah Olson the perfect
read for fans of creepy, suspenseful teen fiction.
A love of photography, an old camera, and countless
questions—these are all that sixteen-year-old Gretchen has
left of her mother, who mysteriously disappeared years ago.
Now she must return to the place where her mom vanished—a
decaying mansion that Gretchen has suddenly inherited from
her great-aunt Esther. However, Gretchen won’t find the
answers she’s seeking without unraveling the secrets that
lurk inside the house. There are stacks of photographs and
letters from her ancestors that go back centuries, pointing
to some kind of haunting past. But when proof of the
mansion’s dark history appears to Gretchen in the form of
ghostly visions and the soft, eerie whisper of her mother’s
voice, there’s no doubt that something sinister has taken
No matter how scared she might be, Gretchen must somehow
uncover the reasons why this indescribable force has
descended upon her family and find a way to set
everyone—even the dead—free.