Nooks & Crannies by Jessica Lawson
Pub. Date: June 2, 2015
Summary: 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.
Genre: Middle Grade, Historical Fiction, Mystery
Recommended for: Fans of plucky MCs, Agatha Christie, and quirky sidekicks (assuming you consider a mouse to be quirky!) Readers who grew up with Charlie Bucket
Lately it’s been Middle Grade madness up in here, between revisiting childhood favorites and stalking my library, I’ve been on a big MG kick and Nooks & Crannies is no exception. After wanting to take a break from some review novels, I went through my shelves on GoodReads (hi, I’m gatsby, let’s be friends ♥) and randomly picked one that caught my eye. The Pittsburgh library system is awesome and, despite N&C having just been released when I requested it, it was available and soon was in my greedy little hands.
Tabitha Crum would put Orphan Annie to shame. Her parents use her as their own personal maid (when they actually remember and acknowledge her existence, of course,) she has a terrible haircut, sleeps in the cold attic, and her only friend is a mouse named Pemberley. As if that wasn’t bad enough, after some rather shady bank transactions, the Crums announce they’re going on holiday to Spain…and that they’re sending Tabitha to the local orphanage. As fate would have it, however, Tabitha receives a sealed envelope that changes her life: the reclusive Countess of Windermere has invited Tabitha to her (haunted??) mansion, along with five other children, none of whom know why.
Oh, this was delightful! Absolutely adorable – though, at times, a little gory. I definitely agree with all the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory-meets-Clue comparisons. A rather gruesome murder is the focal point of the plot and more dastardly deeds follow soon after. To say more would completely spoil the entire book, but let it be known that the mystery here was SO much fun (and, seriously, think back to Willy Wonka’s factory..!)
The characters were an absolute joy too – Pemberley was by far one of my most favorites. I rooted for Tabitha, came to adore Oliver and Viola, and even loved how villainous the villains were. Just loathsome enough and vile enough to send a chill up your spine.
Again, I don’t want to ruin the book, so I’m ending things on a rather vague note. Nooks & Crannies is a fantastic mystery that sent me back to my early days when I had just been introduced to Roald Dahl (and those are some pretty big shoes to fill, so high-five, Ms. Lawson!) I highly recommend this one to readers of all ages: anyone looking for a fun and engaging mystery will be sure to enjoy Tabitha (and Pemberley!) and the ghosts that may or may not haunt the Countess’s mansion. Unfortunately, Inspector Percival Pensive is neither real nor an actual series, because, like Tabitha, I would absolutely devour those books and take his advice to heart!