Ghosts of Greenglass House, Kate Milford (Clarion Books 978-0-544-99146-0, $17.99, 464pp, hc) October 2017.
There is something positively delightful about sinking into the plot-heavy, character-rich, never-dull-for-a-moment novels of Kate Milford. From the intense rural scares of The Boneshaker to the historical high seas of The Left-Handed Fate, Milford’s trademark combination of mystery and fantasy, with no small amount of action, is immensely appealing for younger teens. In Greenglass House she added a haunted house element that brought some paranormal thrills against the bad guys. Clearly, Milford knows exactly what she is doing with these books, and succeeds yet again with her latest title.
Ghosts of Greenglass House returns readers to the fictional coastal town of Nagspeake, where things seem to be straightforward, but never are, and mysteries pop up with startling regularity. Milo and his parents are getting ready for the holiday, as he ponders whether the last guest in their inn is really the artist he claims to be or someone with sinister motives. He doesn’t have much time to wonder however, as soon enough some old friends arrive, fresh off a slightly unsuccessful heist and then the weirdest group of carolers in history show up, and before you know it, Greenglass House is full, treasure has been stolen and Milo is desperate to find his old friend, Meddy, who happens to be a ghost who occasionally lives in the house.
If all of this sounds like a lot, well, it is because Milford’s books excel at conundrums, clues, red herrings, crazy characters, folklore, and the wonderfully weird world that is Nagspeake. This time around there is a missing map (among many other cool objects), and Milo and Meddy must team up to not only recover the lost items, (which were stolen in the first place), but also figure out who is lying among the group of oddballs straight out of an Agatha Christie novel who have camped out in the living room and show no signs of leaving. On top of everything else, 13-year old Milo is having an identity crisis that cannot be ignored and carries with it a degree of doubt that leaves him questioning himself, even as he continues to pursue the mystery. There is pirate lore, the history of an asylum, a ghostly horse, someone who hijacks another ghost’s identity, and still, the missing map.
Ghosts of Greenglass House is old-fashioned in the best sense of the word. Kate Milford makes the intricate plot sing and her characters are equal parts bizarre and endearing (except for the villains, of course). All of her books are fun-to-read escapist fiction for teens who are not ready for (or interested in) the more adult themes found in much of YA literature. This latest book will most certainly not disappoint her many fans.
Colleen Mondor, Contributing Editor, is a writer, historian, and reviewer who co-owns an aircraft leasing company with her husband. She is the author of “The Map of My Dead Pilots: The Dangerous Game of Flying in Alaska” and reviews regularly for the ALA’s Booklist. Currently at work on a book about the 1932 Mt. McKinley Cosmic Ray Expedition, she and her family reside in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. More info can be found on her website: www.colleenmondor.com.
This review and more like it in the January 2018 issue of Locus.