Goodreads: Nooks & Crannies
Published: June 2, 2015
Tabitha Crum is a girl with a big imagination and a love for mystery novels, though her parents think her only talent is being a nuisance. She doesn’t have a friend in the world, except her pet mouse, Pemberley, with whom she shares her dingy attic bedroom.
Then, on the heels of a rather devastating announcement made by her mother and father, Tabitha receives a mysterious invitation to the country estate of the wealthy but reclusive Countess of Windermere, whose mansion is rumored to be haunted. There, she finds herself among five other children, none of them sure why they’ve been summoned. But soon, a very big secret will be revealed— a secret that will change their lives forever and put Tabitha’s investigative skills to the test.
Nooks & Crannies is the perfect read for those who need a bit of mystery in their lives. The book is a fun take on the girl who likes mystery novels being swept up into a real, live mystery–in this case, one that could be deadly. Balancing light-hearted humor and dark secrets, Nooks & Crannies takes mystery seriously.
In many ways, the book was not quite what I was expecting, which was refreshing. Though parts of the mystery are easy to figure out, others are not, which will keep even adult readers entertained. I was also surprised by the roles of the other children. I was anticipating the children pooling their talents in the manner of The Mysterious Benedict Society to solve the mystery, but the book really is more in the mode of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Some of the children are simply there to be annoying.
However, there is a fantastic range of characters, from the varied children themselves to the hired help at the manor to the Countess and the parents. There’s also Pemberley the mouse who, while not a magical talking companion, is quite endearing. He’s also very brave and a lovely addition to the book for anyone who can’t help but fall in love with literary animals.
I will say I’m starting to become concerned about the number of abusive parents portrayed in middle grade–not because such parents don’t exist or because I think children need to be protected from the idea, but because in middle grade abuse is so often portrayed as humorous. It’s as if characterizing the parents as really, really bad and making ridiculous demands of their child and stuffing them away in a corner of the attic somehow makes the situation comically absurd rather than disturbing. While I don’t want to burden Nooks & Crannies with all the responsibilities for this, I do wish authors would do something more with child abuse. A way out for the child that doesn’t involve a crazy adventure, serendipity, and a kindly stranger adopting them might be a start, as the trope usually goes.
Otherwise, however, Nooks & Crannies is a thoroughly engrossing tale. I’ll stop short of calling it “charming” because it’s too caught up in details of murders and other grisly mysteries, and it’s not always shy of representing humans at their worst. Both children and adults can be quite nasty in this book. Yet the story is ultimately hopeful and has positive messages about what spunk, careful observance, and bravery can do for a girl.