Author: Mary Downing Hahn
After seven hard years in a London orphanage, twelve-year-old Florence has been found by her great uncle and is moving to his home in the countryside. Her arrival there seems portentous, the rain and gothic loneliness combining to create a distinct “House of Usher” sort of feel. But it may be more than the isolation and the architecture that’s at fault. It seems Florence’s cousin Sophia died at this house a year ago . . . and she seems to have some lingering grudges about her death, mostly directed at her brother James (who survived while Sophia died) and at Florence (who bears an astonishing resemblance to Sophia in appearance if not in character). Meanwhile, the adults in the house are completely unaware that Sophia’s ghost is still haunting the place and forcing Florence to do things she doesn’t want to. James and Florence may both be in danger, and it seems there’s little they can do about their incorporeal doom-bringing relative. . . .
I don’t usually go in for ghost stories that much (they mostly seem pretty cheesy, to be honest), but Mary Downing Hahn’s books are a definite exception. She is the master of the ghost story, in my opinion, and The Ghost of Crutchfield Hall is an excellent example of her expertise. In this story, she builds the perfect atmosphere–eerie and spooky but not overdone, so that the reader’s nerves are just on edge enough to heighten the appreciation of the story. Furthermore, she builds the environment perfectly–the historical details, the literature, all play into the setting. And then, she crafts a set of characters whose story would honestly be interesting in itself, even without the ghost element: James and Florence are interesting and likeable, Sophia and Florence’s great aunt are pitiful but detestable, the servants are knowing yet afraid, and Florence’s great uncle is kind as could be but a bit dense. All these details are crafted together to create a story that is gripping and haunting–I read The Ghost of Crutchfield Hall in one sitting because I couldn’t put it down!