Friday, October 27, 2017

The First Goth Girl Novel - Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse

Take the Oz books - mix it up with a bit of Gothic tales - throw in a bit of Nancy Drew for good measure - and what you'll end up with is the first Goth Girl mystery!  Honestly, I can't recall how I came across this series (that seems to happen a lot lately - although I think this was another series I stumbled across on Amazon), but I am definitely glad I did.  This first book, The Ghost of a Mouse, was a fun read with likable characters, a well-plotted mystery, and some truly gorgeous illustrations.

I'm not really familiar with the author, Chris Riddell, but I have to give him props.  He not only knows how to tell a great story, but he knows how to make his characters spring to live and, like L. Frank Baum did in his Oz books, Riddell draws you into the most outrageous situations with some very unbelievable characters who you have no problem accepting without question.

The "Goth Girl" in the title refers to the protagonist, Ada Goth, who lives in the stately (and somewhat off-beat) Ghastly-Gorm Hall with her father, Lord Goth.  Her mother, Parthenope (gotta love these names!), died in a tragic accident when she fell from the roof of the estate while practicing her tight-rope walking skills (you have to read it to understand it).  Poor Ada has gone through a number of governesses, all of whom have left or disappeared for one reason or another, and she is forced to deal with her father's rather eclectic staff - Maltravers, the indoor gameskeeper, and Mrs. Beat'em, the cook.  There were a whole crew of maids and lady servants, but none of them were allowed to speak to Ada.

The mystery begins when Ada is visited by the ghost of a mouse named Ishmael who was killed in a mouse trap set by Maltravers.  When Ada discovers where the trap was set, it sets in motion a mystery surrounding the "broken wing" of the house that is in complete disrepair; the heretobefore never heard of "even more secret garden" that is hidden away within the secret garden behind the house; the mysterious pheasants to be used in the upcoming hunt held every year by Lord Goth; the stranger-than-normal actions of Maltravers; and the secret that is hidden in the Bathroom of Zeus (just trust me on this - it really is a room in the house).  And while Ada thinks she is in this alone, she soon discovers that there are other children in the house - there are William and Emily Cabbage, the children of the inventor, Charles Cabbage, who came to Ghastly-Gorm Hall to build a calculating machine for Lord Goth (and who Lord Goth promptly forgot was there); there is Arthur Halford, who is the hobby-horse groom; and there is Kingsley, the chimney caretaker who was promoted when the prior chimney sweep left with a former governess of Ada's (hmmmm, a governess who falls for a chimney sweep?  yes, there are tons of literary references and nods to other great works scattered throughout the book - yet one more reason to enjoy it!).

The "Attic Club" as the kids are known, since they regularly meet in the attic to avoid being seen by or disturbing the inhabitants of the great house, allow Ada to join them, and together they set out to solve the mystery.  They soon learn, however, that time is running out - for there are lives at stake, and they must find a solution before the great hunt takes place!

According to the copyright page, Chris Riddell is not only the author, but also the illustrator of this enjoyable work of art.  There are numerous illustrations throughout the book, and they truly enhance the reading of and love for the story.  Visuals for all the characters, humans and non-humans alike, are given in full detail, and there is even a map of the entire Ghastly-Gorm Hall so you can keep track of all the unusual places Ada and her friends traverse (like the Alpine Gnome Rockery, the Dear-Deer Park, the Overly Ornamental Fountain, and so on).

If you love letting your imagination run wild while you are reading, and you love a well-written mystery with humor and Gothic undertones, then you will absolutely love this first Goth Girl book!

RATING:  10 psychic governess agencies out of 10 for a superb beginning to an unusual new mystery series that will definitely pique the interest of any aged reader!

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