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The Poisoned House

The Poisoned House

4.2 9
by Michael Ford

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Life can be cruel for a servant girl in 1850s London. Fifteen-year-old Abi is a scullery maid in Greave Hall, an elegant but troubled household. The widowed master of the house is slowly slipping into madness, and the tyrannical housekeeper, Mrs. Cotton, punishes Abi without mercy. But there's something else going on in Greave Hall, too. An otherworldly presence


Life can be cruel for a servant girl in 1850s London. Fifteen-year-old Abi is a scullery maid in Greave Hall, an elegant but troubled household. The widowed master of the house is slowly slipping into madness, and the tyrannical housekeeper, Mrs. Cotton, punishes Abi without mercy. But there's something else going on in Greave Hall, too. An otherworldly presence is making itself known, and a deadly secret will reveal itself--a secret that will shatter everything Abi knows.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"This ghost story is light fare, chilling, and suspenseful." Starred Review, School Library Journal

"In all scary, compelling and atmospheric enough for a satisfying chill." Kirkus Reviews

"This snugly plotted novel for readers over the age of 13, which purports to be Abigail's private papers from 1855, would serve as an excellent introduction to the adult tradition of ghost stories set in the same era." Wall Street Journal

"The strength of the novel is the girl's perseverance despite her disbelief, and the reward for Abi at the end will be just as great for the audience rooting her on." Booklist

VOYA - Jane Harper
Recently orphaned, fifteen-year-old Abigail Tamper is forced to survive by working as a maid at Greave Hall, a wealthy household in 1850s London. There she is targeted for abuse by Mrs. Cotton, the cruel and tyrannical housekeeper. Abigail is completely at her mercy. Her beloved mother has been dead for a year; kindly Lord Greave, the master of the house, is slowly slipping into madness; and his handsome son and heir, Abigail's dear childhood friend, has returned gravely wounded from the Crimean War. With no one to rescue her, there seems to be no end to the torment Abigail must suffer—until a ghost enters Greave Hall. This ghost will not rest until a scandalous family secret is revealed and a decades-old score is settled. This well-crafted novel delivers all the elements of a great ghost story: a brooding gothic atmosphere, an adventurous protagonist who intrepidly pursues every terrifying new clue, a relentless and scary ghost, and a colorful cast of fully developed secondary characters. There are enough plot twists, dark secrets, murder, and betrayal to keep readers turning the pages. This supernatural tale actually has enough elements of historical fiction to satisfy readers of both genres, giving it even broader appeal, and is sure to be included on every future list of young adult ghost stories. Reviewer: Jane Harper
Children's Literature - Danielle Williams
It's been nearly a year since Abi's mother died and in that time, Abi's life has changed dramatically. A maid in the house where her mother worked as a nurse, Abi is desperate to escape the oppressive atmosphere that lies over the house due to the influence of the housekeeper, the master's sister-in-law, Mrs. Cotton. Abi's attempt to escape is easily thwarted, but her return to the house starts her on a journey that Abi never expected. Just before Samuel, the master's son, returns from the Crimean War, Abi becomes convinced the house is haunted and only becomes more certain that her mother is sending her warnings after Sammy's return. As the mystery deepens, Abi becomes more and more convinced that her mother was murdered and that there are more secrets in the house than she could ever suspect. The story is intriguing and well-written and is engaging enough that the book is difficult to put down. Though the story is rather predictable, it will appeal to middle school readers just becoming interested in the mystery and horror genre. Reviewer: Danielle Williams
School Library Journal
Gr 6–9—The year is 1855 and orphaned serving girl Abigail Tamper, 14, tries to escape Greave Hall, an austere London mansion, in the dead of night. She is hauled back and forced to work for Mrs. Cotton, cruel and devious housekeeper to senile Lord Greave. It isn't just the dreary residents who frighten Abi; there's something terribly amiss in the house. Glasses crash to the floor, rooms are turned topsy-turvy and then righted again when no one is looking, handprints appear in impossible places. Deepening Abi's dread is the upcoming anniversary of her mother's death. She pins her hopes for brighter days on the heir to the house, handsome Samuel Greave, who is returning as an injured hero from the Crimean War. The two played together in childhood, when Abi's mother was Master Samuel's nurse, and they share a brother/sisterlike bond. But the eerie occurrences only increase on his return. Is Abi's dead mother trying to tell her something? Every gothic trope is put to use here: the silent butler, a séance gone wrong, messages via Ouija board, secret alliances, out-of-wedlock pregnancies (two of them), and a last-minute will that changes everything. This ghost story is light fare, chilling, and suspenseful. Readers who ask for "more like this book" might well be primed for something more substantial, like Henry James himself.—Carolyn Lehman, Humboldt State University, Arcata, CA
Kirkus Reviews

A scullery maid, a great house, whispered evil and a ghost populate this first-person tale of mid-19th-century London.

Abigail's mother died a year ago of cholera, and the 14-year-old girl misses her fiercely; Mrs. Cotton, Lord Greaves' sister-in-law, is cruel to the staff—Abi in particular—in every possible way. Her mother was servant and nursemaid to Sam, who is now back, injured, from the Crimean War, and Abi hopes the return of Sam will both cheer the ailing Lord Greaves and protect her from Mrs. Cotton. But strange happenings pervade Greave Hall: Keys go missing; filthy handprints appear; unidentifiable noises are heard. Mrs. Cotton finds a way to blame Abi for most of it. Abi must try to puzzle out questions of her mother's demise and other questions about their place in the household. Abigail's fellow servant Lizzie, Lizzie's banishment and the coal boy Adam figure in the story, as does a compliant Ouija board, which leads to a climatic confrontation and another death. Ford suddenly turns a sympathetic character evil without foreshadowing, which may strike readers as unfair, and the conclusion happens rather abruptly, but he ties up the tale very nicely by ending with Abigail's full obituary of many decades later.

In all, scary, compelling and atmospheric enough for a satisfying chill. (Ghost story. 12 & up)

Product Details

Whitman, Albert & Company
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 6.90(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range:
13 - 18 Years

Meet the Author

Michael Ford read English and Classics at Oxford University, before a stint teaching English in Greece. He also worked as an editor for children's nonfiction books. He is now an editor of adult fiction and lives in England.

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The Poisoned House 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Rita_Lot More than 1 year ago
A great read for mystery and supernatural fans. Abigail Tamper's life as a servant girl in a well off London home changes drastically once she encounters a ghost. This suspenseful mystery is a page turner. The book is presented as a lost journal but the narrative doesn't match a personal journal format. Still the storyline and the characters are well developed which kept me hooked. I really enjoyed the unique ending that the author uses to tie up all the loose strings. Overall, the Poisoned House is a fun book to escape with.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved this book! It was very well written and the time period of this book was portrayed very nicely. I checked this out from the library and it's on my Birthday list so I can own it. highly recommended.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
awsome book, very relatable and mysterious. The plot was not left short, but surprised with the bad guy in the end. wish i would have been able to know what happens to other characters though, but overall a very good well written book! it is worth your time!
KashkaKZ More than 1 year ago
I liked this book,very easy to read,good storyline and a great ending! I finished this book in 2days because it kept my interest and wasn't too scary. Just enough chill,just enough suspense!
afeedingplaceforanimals More than 1 year ago
I can't describe the pull i felt to keep reading. I felt nestled in between every word written. It wasn't just the story for me, but the way it was written- as few books are. It was so well crafted and gave me joy at every turn. From the beginning I thought I had the book nailed, but it took twists and turns I never believed plausible. If you like well written novels and soaring tales, I recommend this.
librarysusie More than 1 year ago
Young Abi is an orphaned servant girl in the house of Lord Greave, the head of the household staff Mrs. Cotton, is the sister of the late lady of the house who rules with an iron fist. It has been a year since Abi lost her mother who was nurse/governess to Lord Greave's son Samuel, Abi and Samuel grew up together and were closer than master & servant should be. In the year since her mother died Lord Greave has been slowly losing his mind and Samuel went off to war and came back injured. The worst thing is that Abi is seeing the ghost of her mother but what is she trying to tell her. I really enjoyed this book it was hard to put down; it had just the right amount of spookiness and mystery. The build up to the reveal was great and what you think is going on is actually quite different then you are led to believe. The whole atmosphere of the story really took you back to 1856 Victorian England, the big house with its ghosts plus a little upstairs/downstairs. Abi was a great character as were the rest of the household staff I ended up really liking them and thought the postscript was a great touch! If you like Victorian gothic with ghosts give this book a try! I received this book from netgalley. 4 stars
OtotheD More than 1 year ago
Fifteen-year-old Abigail is a servant in Greaves Hall. Her mother died of cholera just one year ago, leaving her an orphan. With nowhere to go, she is left to serve in the house she and her mother have lived in since she was born. Abi's life is miserable and she dreams of running away to escape the wrath of Mrs. Cotton, the head housekeeper, who, for some reason, insists on making Abi's life a living hell. When Samuel, the son of the lord of the house returns home, gravely injured after serving in the war, strange things begin taking place around Greaves Hall. Mysterious hand prints appear on windows, rooms in the house are trashed, and Abi can't shake the feeling she is being watched. As the lord of the house slips further into madness, and Samuel's life hangs between life and death, the ghostly incidents come more frequently. Abi believes someone is trying to tell her something. Could it be her mother, reaching out to her from the grave, or is it something more sinister? To say any more about the synopsis of this book would ruin the experience for the reader. With The Poisoned House, Mr. Ford has crafted a truly creepy, gothic ghost story. He perfectly captures the setting of 1850's London with vivid detail. The characters are all richly drawn, especially the devious Mrs. Cotton, who gives Mrs. Danvers of Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca a run for her money. This is a quick and easy read, and one that shouldn't be missed, especially by fans of good old-fashioned ghost stories. (Review based on an Advanced Reader's Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley)
Read_A_Book More than 1 year ago
This is a great novel, full of suspense, mystery, and betrayal, and I was hooked from the very beginning! Abi, a poor scullery maid, obtained my sympathy within moments of meeting her. She is kind, quiet, and alone, her mother having died the previous year from cholera, and with no one to defend her, Mrs. Cotton, the overbearing house keeper, repeatedly abuses young Abi. In order to get back at Mrs. Cotton for all she's ever done to the servants of the house, Abi and her friends attempt to scare Mrs. Cotton into thinking that her deceased sister has come back to haunt her. However, the prank becomes chillingly real as some otherworldly force descends upon the house, causing Abi to question all she's ever known, including the circumstances related to the death of her mother. I loved the many twists and turns within the novel, especially the ending as I never saw it coming. Ford has created wonderful characters and has put together a beautiful story of love and betrayal, gluing the reader to the pages as this haunting tale unfolds. His use of imagery and crisp diction depicting the 1800s transports the reader back in time, causing him/her to feel one with the story, a feat few authors are able to master. Though the action in the story slows from time to time, Ford is able to keep the reader easily engaged as the story reaches its climax and all is revealed. Four stars.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago