The year is 1872, and Horace Carpentine is apprenticed to the Enoch Middleditch, a ‘society photographer’. Photography is a subject of fascination to Horace, but Mr. Middleditch is strict about Horace NOT taking any pictures. Yet.
When a wealthy woman comes to Mr. Middleditch wanting her picture taken to present at the grave of her dead daughter, the clever photographer cooks up a scheme to create a scam photo, a “spirit image”. Horace must play a part in the get-rich-quick plot by taking pictures of pictures of the dead girl, but is torn by his conscience as to whether the Mr. Middleditch’s self-righteous excuses are valid.
The plan to create the spirit image goes horribly wrong when Horace realizes that the pictures he takes are somehow correlated to the ghost of Eleanora Von Macht, who begins to show up in ways that he never expected. The scheme spirals downward as more and more photos turn into near-fatal accidents, and Horace realizes his photography may have brought Eleanora back to life.
If you have children who like to occasionally be frightened, but not scared completely out of their wits, this is a great book! Just creepy enough to send shivers down your spine, but not enough to keep you up at night, but still not a good choice for sensitive kids.
I keep saying that I’m waiting for Avi to surprise me, and this book has made it’s way near the top of the list of favorite Avi books. It isn’t technically perfect; in the same Avi fashion, the characters are kind of blah without any real growth, but the plot and setting are just perfect! It’s kind of a short read, which is weird to me because it could have been made far longer. If you’re analyzing the book (like me), there were a couple small plot holes which can be willingly suspended by my disbelief, and the ending seemed a little….easy. The beginning takes a little while to make it’s point, but afterwards it pretty fast-paced. I finished the whole book in about 5 hours.
The process of early photography is discussed, which is fairly interesting, and whole idea of a ghost image scam is fascinating in itself. Definitely recommended. I might have possibly categorized it in horror, but I don’t think that any real children’s book should ever be put in horror.
Overall Rating: 4/5
Violence: 4/10 (creepiness also contributes)
Audience: Ages 11 and up.