Greenglass House

This book is absolutely marvelous.  As I have probably mentioned before, some of my favorite book finds are those which fall serendipitously into my lap (figuratively, obviously!).  I'm not even sure what prompted me to put Greenglass House on hold at the library, or why I skipped over all the other books currently packing my bookshelves, or the ones on my coffee table, or the other ones tucked under my side table in the dining blob (I live in a small apartment.  It's not really a room, it's more of a hallway-blob where you can put a small table).  I don't believe in fate, but I do believe that certain books are simply meant to be read and loved by certain people.  And oh my, did I love Greenglass House!

When you run a hotel in a town with a reputation as a smuggler base, you have to be circumspect.  Milo's parents own Greenglass House, a hotel sitting on top of a tall, tall hill above the town of Nagspeake and the handy-for-smugglers river that runs through it.  There are only two ways to access the top of this tall, tall hill: either take the cable car, which requires bell-ringing and level-pulling, or hike up a perilous staircase carved into the face of the cliff upon which Greenglass House perches.  I'll take the tram, thanks.

Milo is finally on winter vacation and looking forward to spending time with his parents for the holidays.  Just him and them.  Milo likes solitude.  He also likes things just so.  Don't move his room around or touch him when he doesn't want to be touched ... and definitely do not bring up that he doesn't look like his parents.  Milo's adopted, and while he wants his family history to make up part of his identity, he also loves his parents very, very much, and often feels as if he's betraying them in some way by wanting to know more about his birth parents.  His hoped-for solitude is ruined when the bell rings, signaling that a customer wishes to ride up the cable tram.  Milo begrudgingly assists his mother, Nora Pine, in setting the gears in motion so the car can climb the hill ... and so the story can begin.

From here, Greenglass House unfolds like the game of Clue meets Agatha Christie meets RPGs, and it is glorious.  The first to arrive, De Cary Vinge, is a mysterious man with excessively garish socks.  He's followed by Georgie Moselle, a young woman with blue hair and a perky attitude, then Mrs. Eglantine Hereward and Doctor Wilbur Gowervine, who ride up together and cannot stop arguing with each other.  As Mrs. Hereward and Dr. Gowervine argue in the snow, Milo hears someone, improbably, running up the cliff stairs.  It turns out to be another young lady, Clem Candler, self-described cat burglar.  As each guest arrives, he or she is shocked and dismayed to realize that there are other people staying at the hotel.  This, in itself, is suspicious.  But things get so much messier!

Because the hotel now has guests, Mr. and Mrs. Pine send for their regular cook, Mrs. Caraway, and her daughter Meddy, who's around Milo's age.  I loved Meddy--she's vivacious and loves playing role-playing games like Odd Trails.  To cheer Milo up, she suggests investigating the mysteries that keep cropping up as characters in a game: Milo becomes an escaladeur (rogue character) named Negret, and Meddy a scholiast named Sirin.  Together, they investigate a mysterious map, discover stolen items, and ultimately discover the history of Greenglass House.

I don't want to give too much away, because this is just too much fun to read!  The plot twists and turns all over without ever flying off the rails, plus we get some really nice character growth in Milo.  I loved how Milford handled Milo's adoption and how he defines family.

The setting, too, is really fascinating.  It seems to be set in modern-day America--at least from some of the references, but Greenglass House is a world unto itself.  I mean, smugglers and customs agents and swashbuckling tragic heroes?  Yes!  If I had to guess, I'd say the house was in Maine, because a) Canada and smuggling and b) it's vaguely creepy, and all good creepy stories seem to be set in Maine.

This is probably one of the best middle grade books I've read this year, and I'll be recommending it to everyone.


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