Review by Lorraine Langford
The adventures of Magda Sommers continue in the third mystery in Amber Harvey’s exciting series. This time Magda and her friends discover a derelict house they believe to be haunted by the ghosts of the Parker family, rumoured to have been murdered many years ago. No bodies – or skeletons! – have been discovered, and the only suspect has disappeared. Magda, a curious, courageous – and stubborn – preteen is determined to solve the mystery despite her mother Jessie’s warning to stay away from the crumbling house.
There is another conflict facing Magda as she tries her best to do the right thing. Her strong-willed friend Brent, a seriously neglected child in danger of being sent to a foster home or worse, to juvenile detention, is suspected of stealing valuable First Nation artefacts. The police want to interrogate him, but he has vanished.
During a conversation with her – and Brent’s – friends, Magda realizes that they do not share her intense loyalty to Brent and have their doubts about his innocence; she is alone in her determination to prove he isn’t a criminal. Brent contacts Magda and she hides food and supplies to help him survive until she can clear him. Later, she fights a dangerous storm to get back home after failing to find him in the “Whispering Forest.”
Other people in Magda’s life include her employer, farmer Polly Prudholme. She is a stern, taciturn woman who never encourages or praises Magda, a diligent farmhand who loves working with Polly’s animals, and Hortense Warwick, an ill-tempered busybody who knows about other skeletons – the ones in people’s closets – but doesn’t give Magda anything useful about the missing Parker family or who might have killed them. More helpful in Magda’s investigation is Sport, a neighbour’s dog left in her care.
Magda suspects that the great-aunt of her best friend Shauna holds information that would help in her investigation and she travels with Jessie to Victoria to question her. During her investigation to find the real burglars, Magda overhears a conversation that provides information that leads to the conclusion of her case and keeps Brent from leaving Mayne Island and the people who care for him.
The author blends an imaginative and entertaining story with real-life issues and authentic dialogue. Children and their parents will be anxious to see what happens next with chapter headings such as “Fall into Danger” and “Bone Digger”. Magda is well on her way to becoming an accomplished investigator of Mayne Island mysteries. Readers will be intrigued by her boldness and intelligence and look forward to her next adventure. Magda’s curiosity and fierce sense of justice are bound to make more trouble for her.