The Poisoned House by Michael Ford

The Poisoned House by Michael Ford is a short  book, but a blast to read. Abigail Tamper confronts villains, ghosts, and general hardship at every turn.

Born to a nurse in Greave Hall and a now-deceased watch-maker, Abigail Tamper grew up pretty privileged for her situation. She learned to read and even write along with Samuel, Lord Greave’s son. They played together, learned together, and grew up as close as any blood brother and sister would. But when Samuel’s sent to war and Abigail’s mother dies during the cholera epidemic just days later, the girl’s life takes a turn in the other direction. She now works under the iron fist of Mrs. Cotton. And Mrs. Cotton, sister to the late Lady Greave, has little love for the Tampers. Abi becomes a kind of Cinderella: she’s given the dirtiest, lowest tasks of the house to do on a daily basis. She has nobody to defend her, and no light at the end of the tunnel.

But then a series of mysterious hand-prints appear around the house. Servants run from rooms with terrified faces, and Lord Greave grows increasingly erratic and unwell. Could there be a ghost in Greave Hall? Abi is determined to find out who it is, and what it wants.

And the villains! Mrs. Cotton is just plain evil. She’s mean for no reason, drowns kittens (I know!) and takes advantage of the ailing Lord Greave, her very own brother-in-law. She’s mistreated Abi since the girl’s mother died. Could there be a reason for the housekeeper’s hate?

The plot itself is unoriginal. Girl has good childhood. Becomes an orphan. Becomes a mistreated servant girl. Finds out that she is much more than she appears. Dies happily ever after.

The Poisoned House by Michael Ford keeps you entertained while reading it, but won’t stick with you once you move on to bigger, more complex books. It worked great as a palate cleanser after working through the horror that is Middlemarch. Overall, it’s a fun read with some great characters.

If this sounds good, also check out:

Camille by Tess Oliver

Variant by Robison Wells

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