The House on March Lane by Michelle Briscombe
|The House on March Lane by Michelle Briscombe|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Liz Green|
|Summary: Well-plotted and ingenious ghost story for pre-teens|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 240||Date: April 2016|
|Publisher: Candy Jar Books|
The House on March Lane merges past and present in this ghost story for pre-teens. After a spectral encounter at her father's reclamation yard, Flora and her friend Archie follow a trail to the eponymous house, discovering it to be occupied by a mysterious lady called Mable. Interspersing Flora and Archie's investigations, and their blossoming friendship with Mable, is the story of Harriet and Lily, a spirited and adventurous rich girl and her young maid, who lived in Mable's house one hundred and fifty years ago. In fine tradition, the two stories do, of course, come together in the end, and in a quite unexpected - and neat - way.
The historical setting - Victorian England - is used most imaginatively: Harriet's father is a ship's officer who travelled with Charles Darwin on the Beagle. He and Darwin have brought back some dangerous knowledge which threatens the safety of the entire family, and Harriet and Lily get embroiled in their own plan to protect the family. Weaving a fictionalised history of Darwin's discoveries into Harriet and Lily's story works really well, adding another interesting dimension to the book.
The story concludes very neatly with all loose ends tied up and, in the final chapter, Michelle Briscombe leaves the way open for more ghostly happenings at the reclamation yard - so there is potential for a sequel.
The House on March Lane is a quick read, without much in the way of characterisation (the characters tend to be rather bland, to be honest). But the plot is sufficiently intriguing, and original, that you just keep going, turning the pages to find out what happens. So it's well plotted and well structured, and the story really does work in a most satisfying and rather ingenious way. But, well, literature it ain't. In fact, not only is the writing itself somewhat uninspiring but, worse, the book was littered with misused past tenses that really set my teeth on edge. For example, the dog was sat in his kennel; they were sat in front of the wood-burner; they were stood in front of the house; he was leant against the wall... Whatever happened to sitting, standing and leaning? We're not talking isolated words here - the author sprinkles these ghastly expressions so liberally throughout the book that she's clearly not aware of their misuse. The target may be children but that's no excuse - perhaps even less of an excuse, actually - for sloppy writing.
To sum up, then, the great plot makes this a page-turner but the story is marred by unexciting writing and some grammatical unpleasantness. If only Michelle Briscombe were a more elegant writer, she would have got a whole extra star.
If you like ghost stories and want to ratchet up the fear factor, try Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror by Chris Priestley.
You can read more book reviews or buy The House on March Lane by Michelle Briscombe at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The House on March Lane by Michelle Briscombe at Amazon.com.
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