The Poisoned House
by Michael Ford
The year is 1855, and orphan Abigail Tamper lives below stairs in Greave Hall, a crumbling manor house in London. Lord Greave is plagued by madness, and with his son Samuel away fighting in the Crimea, the running of Greave Hall is left to Mrs Cotton, the tyrannical housekeeper. The only solace for the beleaguered staff is to frighten Mrs Cotton by pretending the house is haunted.
So when a real ghost makes an appearance – that of her beloved mother – no one is more surprised than Abi. But the spirit has a revelation that threatens to destroy Abi’s already fragile existence: she was murdered, and by someone under their very own roof. With Samuel returned to England badly wounded, it’s up to Abi to nurse him back to health, while trying to discover the identity of the killer in their midst. As the chilling truth dawns, Abi’s world is turned upside down.
I made the mistake of starting to read this book last night. At one o’clock in the morning I found myself closing the book having finished it. I simply couldn’t put it down. Abigail Tamper is a tormented character that lives in fear on a day to day basis. We are transported to a time when servants were disallowed from using the main stairs and speaking up was a horrible offense.
I felt as though I were reading a haunted version of Cinderella at times but that comparison is limited. The only similarities being that Cinderella and Abigail were both servant orphans in large houses with mean women forcing them into various terrible situations.
Some of the story was predictable but the entertainment factor of the story made the predictability appear insignificant. The writing style was easy and flowing and kept my interest for hours. I would suggest the reader be at least 14 as younger children may not sleep for awhile after reading. It is a scary book that caused me to glance behind my back a few times before finally dozing off to sleep.
The characters are colorful and well-formed. I could visualize them all in their various roles in the house. The cook in the kitchen, the butler and the footman all painted a clear image of what aristocratic life was like in 1855 from the eyes of a young servant girl.
I loved the ending of the book and I think you will too. If you like ghost stories and historical fiction this book is perfect for you.