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 "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!