The Ghost of Crutchfield Hall
by Mary Downing Hahn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The Ghost of Crutchfield Hall / 978-0-547-38560-0
I enjoy ghost stories, especially those written for children, so I was pleased to receive an advance review copy of this book from net galley. While I enjoyed this book, I must admit is a little more straightforward and a little less scary than I had hoped.
When Florence is adopted from the orphanage by her distant relations, she is distressed and troubled by her new family. Her uncle pleases her well enough - in a characterization that is mentioned far too often for my tastes and detracts somewhat from Florence's woe-begotten orphan status, both Florence and her uncle are avid readers of Dickens and Bronte, a recurring detail that somehow gives information without developing personality-but her perpetually ill cousin and sourly disposed aunt hide a deeper tragedy for Florence to unravel.
Despite this promising setup, "The Ghost of Crutchfield Hall" never really reaches out and grabs the reader. Florence is fully characterized within the first couple of pages; her family members are equally one dimensional-fully good or bad upon first notice without any further development over the course of the story. The titular ghost is equally disappointing - unambiguously real from the get go, with very little suspense or build up, and making me feel that the editorial review comparing this story to one of Poe's was completely off. Worse than being unambiguous, this ghost is not scary-I know this story is marketed to young children, but it just feels kind of bland and half-hearted.
In the end, I guess there's nothing really wrong with "The Ghost of Crutchfield Hall", but there's nothing really right either. I suppose this would be a good introduction to the ghost stories for a really young child, but there's not enough plot or suspense here to hold older readers. The ending too, feels very rushed and half baked-almost as if this was a first draft rushed out to publication. I guess if you like period ghost stories, but feel that Poe's are too open to interpretation and too scary for young readers, then this might be a good alternative.
NOTE: This review is based on a free Advance Review Copy of this book provided through NetGalley.
~ Ana Mardoll
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