I’ve always had a soft spot for stories about boarding schools, so this middle grade mystery set at a posh English school looked like a great Halloween read for me! While this doesn’t get paranormal, it’s got a really cool creepy setting, where the school itself is almost a character…
Book: The Mystery of Black Hollow Lane by Julia Nobel
Read before: No
Ownership: E-ARC provided by NetGalley for fair review.
Everything at the prestigious Wellsworth boarding school seems pretty weird to Emmy, who’s been dropped off there while her mother takes a huge new step in her TV career. Her roommate is horrible, the lessons are nothing like what she learned in New York, and there’s a whole tangle of new rules, spoken and unspoken to follow. What is especially weird, though, is the mysterious clues she keeps finding – clues which might lead her to the whereabouts of her father, who disappeared nine years ago, and who Emmy thought was dead.
This is a very atmospheric read, both in the creepy bits and not. I felt so much for Emmy as she tried to deal with everything – she’s still reeling from her mother’s abandonment, not to mention the perfectly normal stresses of moving to a new school and a new country. She’s had to put her mother’s career first so many times, and I thought she was a really strong person to be as stoic as she was – so I was thrilled when she started to make friends! Her main friends, Lola and Jack, were also nicely written and seemed to have a lot of depth to them (far more than some sidekicks ever do!). I liked that their backstories and strengths became as relevant to the plot as Emmy’s were.
The mystery itself didn’t go where I was expecting it to (I was thinking it would be ghosts), but involves a secret society and lots and lots of sneaking about in the dark, which is super exciting. The ominous Order feel like a believable threat, and I think that the spook level is pitched perfectly for the 9-12 audience – there’s no violence or scariness, but a looming unease that keeps you turning the pages. Personally, I would have liked the stakes to be a little less vague, but I’m certainly intrigued to see where the next book goes, with the information that Emmy now has (no spoilers!).
If you’re looking for an exciting and atmospheric story with believable pre-teen characters, this is definitely a good pick. It publishes in March 2019, so get it on those wishlists… Four out of five cats!