cover image The House on the Hill

The House on the Hill

Eileen Dunlop. Holiday House, $12.95 (147pp) ISBN 978-0-8234-0658-6

While the cover art is spooky, those looking for chills and thrills may be disappointed by this rather matter-of-fact ghost story. The mystery that surrounds the ghosts takes a backseat to the finely wrought emotions and relationships of the book's living characters. When 12-year-old Philip's recently widowed mother enrolls in a nursing course, she sends him to stay with his great-aunt Jane Gilmore and second cousin Susan in a decaying mansion. Indoctrinated by his parents to resent the supposedly stuck-up Gilmores, Philip is surprised to find them far less class-conscious than he. The children know that something supernatural is afoot when they see a light in a long-empty room and photographs showing furniture where there isn't any. Dunlop masterfully evokes the atmosphere of Glasgow, as well as Philip's change from self-centered child to considerate young adult. The ghostly doings tie into the plot quite logically, but they are almost too pat. Furthermore, the astute reader is likely to figure out the mystery before the protagonists, which mars the overall effect of an otherwise fine story. Ages 9-12. (October)