Elizabeth Somers is an orphan. She lives with a Dursley-ish aunt and uncle. This Christmas, penny-pinching Aunt Purdy and Uncle Burlap are going on an unprecedented vacation. Elizabeth is being sent to Winterhouse, a beautiful old hotel. Elizabeth has no idea how her aunt and uncle can afford to send her on the train or pay for a three-week stay at Winterhouse, much less afford a vacation. But everything is taken care of, and Elizabeth is welcomed into Winterhouse.
There are mysteries all around Elizabeth before she even boards the train. The weird feeling she gets before something unexpected happens. The whispered conversation between her aunt and uncle about a mysterious benefactor. And the conflicting stories and feelings about what happened to her parents.
At Winterhouse, the mysteries continue with the unhappy couple with a coffin of “books, ” and a curious library where people skulk around at midnight with flashlights. Soon Elizabeth is using her gift for puzzles, codes and crosswords to sort out the mysterious events at Winterhouse.
This was an interesting book. Like The Westing Game or The Mysterious Benedict Society mashed up with Harry Potter. Puzzles and magic together. I enjoyed Elizabeth. Her affinity for puzzles and love of reading really clicked for me. The illustrations are also fantastic.
The setting of Winterhouse was great. It’s full of interesting and mysterious treasures and rooms that draw Elizabeth and her friend Freddy into the history of the hotel and the Falls family.
The author does a great job of doling out clues and questions from the beginning to keep the reader turning pages. Weird things started happening right from the start, and they built throughout the story. There is an element of dark magic at work, so sensitive readers should be prepared for that. I found it mild, but I read a lot of fantasy. The author leaves a few threads unresolved for future books. I am eager to see what might happen with these characters next and what other secrets are hidden in the Falls Family and Winterhouse.
Thanks to Netgalley and Henry Holt and Co for an electronic review copy in exchange for an honest review.