Thursday, November 11, 2021

Middle-Grade Review: The Ghost of Midnight Lake

I love reading for the R.I.P. (Readers Imbibing Peril) Challenge each fall! At the end of October, though, I had to finish out the season with a non-R.I.P. book for my book group, so I made sure to choose an audio book perfect for the season. The Ghost of Midnight Lake by Lucy Strange fit the bill ... and I finished it on Halloween night! This ghostly middle-grade mystery was just right for ending my spooky season of reading.

In 1899, Agatha's father, the Earl of Gosswater, has just died, leaving her orphaned and grieving. Things get much worse, however, when her cousin Clarence, who inherited the estate and became the new Earl, abruptly tells her that she is moving out of the only home she's ever known. Before she can even attend the Earl's funeral, he tells her to pack her things and sends her to live in a small cottage in the village, a very different lifestyle than the manor house she has always known. He also tells her that the Earl wasn't her father and that the owner of the cottage, a woodworker and farmer named Thomas, is her real father. Agatha is, of course, stunned, and doesn't understand how any of this could be true. Thomas seems like a nice man, though he's very quiet, and Agatha struggles to adjust to her new life. Meanwhile, she and her new friend row a boat out onto the lake at midnight on New Year's Eve because someone told them that spirits can come through the crack between one year and the next, especially at the turn of a new century. Sure enough, Agatha does see a ghost, a young girl, who she begins to see regularly, though she can't figure out what the spirit wants from her. One more mystery is playing out at the same time. The Earl had two priceless opals, a white one and a black one, that Clarence is desperate to find. But the will said he wanted Agatha to have the black opal, so she surreptitiously took it with her when she left the manor house. The white opal has been missing for many years, and no one knows where it is. As Clarence frantically searches for the opals, Agatha tries to figure out who she is and where she came from ... and what the mysterious ghost girl wants from her.

This is a fun adventure story for middle-graders. It blends family drama, friendship, suspense, and of course, ghosts. Agatha is a very likable character (and Clarence a sufficiently evil villain), and the writing is fast-paced and engrossing. I enjoyed listening to this gripping tale on audio, read by the author. The tangled mysteries kept me guessing, but there is plenty of warmth and heart here, too. The spookiness is quite mild, so this is a great book even for scaredy-cat middle-grade readers who enjoy a bit of suspense in an engaging story.

336 pages, Chicken House (Scholastic)

Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher in return for an honest review. My review is my own opinion and is not influenced by my relationship with the publisher or author.


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  1. I don't think of middle grade students as reading mysteries all that often, so I love this idea of this book.

    1. I LOVED mysteries at that age! Nancy Drew, Bobbsey Twins, and Trixie Belden :) My younger son (the non-reader) really got into The Hardy Boys for a while.