Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Ghost at the Window: A Review

Last month during the Countdown to Halloween, I presented a handful of young adult books with a haunting theme and asked my readers to vote for one which  I would then review.

Well, after a whopping 3 votes (each for a different book), it was clear I would need to flip a coin.

And the winner is...Lady M with "Ghost at the Window"!

The Scottish locale drew Lady M's attention, and I'd have to agree it's the perfect setting for a haunt.  
I read the book in October, but am just getting around to reviewing it.  It's been a whopping 8 years since the last time I reviewed a book, so let's get to it.

When Ewen Dart and his parents move into a centuries-old home in Scotland, they seem to take it in stride when they discover the house has a tendency to shift time periods within its walls from one moment (and usually century) to the next.  One minute the room is decorated for the present, the next it's gone medieval and inhabited by ghots-like strangers that can't see Ewan or his family.  Not only does Ewan and his family know it, it seems to be common knowledge throughout their small community.  Thus sets the scenario for Ewan encountering the spirit of a girl named Elspeth who passed away from diptheria in his room in 1937.  It seems the moment the girl died, the home shifted in time and she is now trapped from moving on to the afterlife.  She requests Ewan's help in assisting in passing through a barrier that seems to stop her every time the opportunity presents itself (when the room happens to change to the moment of Elspeth's death).  This leads Ewan on a quest to solve the mystery behind Elspeth, the house and a mysterious locked cabinet in his room that seems to terrify Elspeth.

From his best friend's grandmother, Ewan learns of the Sutherland family that lived previously in the home. The Sutherland family, who were Aunt, Uncle and Cousins to Elspeth, took her in at the age of 4 when her parents abandoned her for work abroad.  While her Aunt and Uncle did take care of Elspeth, they didn't particularly care for the situation in which they were placed.  Her three cousins were considerably older than her and all boys un-used to little girls, so they took little interest in her either.  Consequently, Elspeth lived a lonely life.  Ewan later learns from Elspeth, that not only was she lonely, she was terrified of the room and particularly the cabinet which she believed held an evil presence.  When pressed further, Elspeth reveals that on the day the youngest Sutherland boy, Alex, left for college, he warned her to never open the doors to the cabinet or it would unleash a demon.

When Ewan learns from his friend's grandmother that Alex Sutherland still lives, he sets out to track him down and finally learn the truth of the cabinet.  Alex, now a famous painter and Vicar, is visiting nearby and Ewan is able to track him down.  What surprises Ewan is that Alex explains he is also a "Peterman" (quick snickering), a slang term for safecrackers and lock-pickers, so named for St. Peter and his holding of the keys to Heaven.  Alex goes on to explain he has been assisting spirits in moving to "the other side" for a long time.  So Alex has no trouble understanding the need for his help in assisting Elspeth, particularly when it comes to her fear of the cabinet.  As it turns out, the threat he made regarding the cabinet was just to keep her from discovering his paintings he had hidden there; painting, though it was his passion, was not approved of by his father.  No longer threatened by the unknown, Elspeth is able to move on to the afterlife. With this resolved, Ewan now accepts the house's quirks and won't consider moving, even when his parents offer.

While the story has an interesting premise, because it leaves the house's time-shifting abilities unexplained along with the anti-climactic explanation of the mystery of the cabinet, I found the ending unrewarding.

The author, Margaret McAllister, is an English children's literature author of 14 book as well as the 5-book series "The Mismantle Chronicles".


  1. Well sorry it was so disappointing. I agree though - a locked cabinet that contains amateur art work - yawn.

    1. No apologies necessary, Lady M. The only way to find out is read it.


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