Saturday, September 8, 2012

Review: The Poisoned House - Michael Ford

The Poisoned House by Michael Ford
Genre: YA, historical fiction, mystery, supernatural
Published on August 1, 2011
Published by Albert Whitman & Company
Pages: 319
Read From: 8.9.12 - 8.10.12

Life can be cruel for a servant girl in 1850s London. Fifteen-year-old Abi is a scullery maid in Greave Hall, an elegant but troubled household. As an otherworldly presence makes itself known, a deadly secret is revealed - a secret that will shatter everything Abi knows.


Cover Blurb: It is definitely far creepier than the story is. I like the cover; the hand grasping out from the dark is very attention-grabbing. But it is somewhat misleading, in the sense that the story isn’t that scary.

What I Liked: The era, obviously, and the premise of the story. Abi was a fine protagonist, though I confess that there was nothing especially memorable about her.

What I Disliked: Abi and other characters kept commenting on how cruel and horribly mean Mrs. Cotton was, but I failed to see much of her cruelty. She did a few mean things, like drowning the kittens, but not enough to warrant the reactions the rest of the staff gave her - not enough to warrant Abi running away and then protesting so loudly when she’s caught. If you have a cruel, mean, heartless character, you need to show it, not just say it.

Believability: At so early a time in the Victorian era, the likelihood of a housekeeper’s sister marrying a lord is not high. As for the ghostly aspect, I found it less “believable” than The Dead of Winter because it took place in the middle of London, and not some isolated country estate virtually cut off from the rest of the world. The setting did not seem suitable for a ghost.

Writing Style: The style lacked a strong Victorian tone, which is what made me love The Dead of Winter so much. And the story just wasn’t all that scary. The séance is about as creepy as it gets, and then it just kind of turns into an average ghost story. It lacked the cold, isolated, dead feel that a truly good ghost story needs, and the plot twists were extremely obvious.

Content: None.

Conclusion: The ending came perilously close to being one of those typical horror movie endings. The monster is dead. Oh no! It’s coming back for a final go at revenge! I’m going to hurl blunt objects at it and scream uselessly when it doesn’t kill it! I mean, did Abi really think the villain was just going to give up and leave her alone? After all that the villain went through to get what said evil person wanted? But I will say this - for all of the predictableness of the plot and the not-very-memorable characters, I still was rather entertained by The Poisoned House; it was good choice to occupy just a couple of hours.

Recommended Audience: Historical fiction fans who like a supernatural twist. A guy-and-girl read, appropriate for most ages.

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