Monday, August 8, 2011

The Poisoned House by Michael Ford

Published on: September 1, 2011
Publisher: Albert Whitman and Company
Source: Publisher provided egalley from Netgalley

Guys, I am not a mystery fan. But, when I read the synopsis for The Poisoned House on Netgalley, it sounded very interesting, and I figured I'd give it a try. I was so pleasantly surprised.

Abigail Tamper is the lowliest of the low in stately Greave Hall. As the scullery maid, she is subject to the wrath of the cruel housekeeper Mrs. Cotton. The master of the house, Lord Greave, is rapidly sinking into madness, and her one protector, Samuel Greave, Lord Greave's son, is away fighting in Crimea. When the manor is plagued by strange happenings, Abi chocks it up to the other servants attempting to frighten Mrs. Cotton, but Abi soon finds out the one responsible is none other than the ghost of her recently deceased mother, who has a message for her. Susan Tamper was murdered, and her murderer is still in the house. It is up to Abi to unravel the mystery before the murderer strikes again. And this time, it could be her.

As I've said, mysteries and I do not have a happy past. Mostly, I'm a wimp, and get freaked out easily, so when I tried to read mysteries before I got to scared to finish. Nowadays, I find myself able to predict who the bad guy is too early for them to be fun, so I just don't try. I only gave The Poisoned House a chance because I felt like I was due for another try, and it sounded good. It gives me hope for my future with mystery books!

I found the Victorian era was portrayed pretty accurately (as far as I could tell, anyways) in the book. The protocol of the time was strict, with servants allowed only in certain parts of the house at certain times, not allowed to speak to the lords and ladies without being spoken to first, and generally being treated as invisible. The era being accurate lends a lot of enjoyability for me to the novel. When glaring mistakes are present, I find myself distracted from the story and obsessing about the tiniest things, wondering if they're correct. Instead, The Poisoned House's world felt vivid and like I could really be there.

Abi was also a very good narrator for me. She was a strong and smart girl, but hindered by her position and had some stupid moments, like we all do. In one particular instance I could tell what was about to happen, and I felt like I was watching a horror movie, wanting to scream at the book, "WHY??????? DON'T YOU KNOW HE'S COMING FOR YOU, DUMMYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY." Abi was real in that she wanted so badly to believe one thing that when the truth was screaming in her face (just like me) she tried her best to ignore it.

The secondary characters were also quite vivid. Each of the other servants had their distinct personalities and place in the house. Sometimes I didn't get Lizzy, and she made me want to yell at her, but every other character worked quite well. I especially liked the ending for Adam (read and you'll see!) It made me smile. :) My one detraction was that I suspected our bad guy for a while before he/she was revealed, though I couldn't guess for certain until one revelation (though I kinda expected that too...)

Oh, and the framing!! I love historical fiction, and historical fiction that has a fun frame makes me do a spastic happy dance. The opening was awesome, and got me curious, but I especially loved the ending. I felt like it was a perfect close. It gave the reader a hint of insight into how our characters fared after the story. :) :)

Four out of five stars. 

Risk a paper cut? The Poisoned House is, in my humble opinion, a mystery for people who don't like mysteries. Any lover of good fiction will appreciate the well-written period and characters. While those who love mysteries will be happy, they may figure out the mystery before our heroine.

To buy: Amazon

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