The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: Book III: The Unseen Guest
In THE MYSTERIOUS HOWLING, which kicked off Maryrose Wood’s The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series, we met a young governess hired to her first position. Penelope Lumley is shocked to find that her little charges are three siblings who had been raised by wolves. But in the true fashion of a girl educated at the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females, she does her best to teach, civilize and love them. In THE HIDDEN GALLERY, we learned even more about Penelope and the children (named Alexander, Beowulf and Cassiopeia), but many, if not most, questions about them remained unanswered. The most baffling of all was the nature of Fredrick Ashton, Lord of Ashton Place’s monthly disappearances and identity of the Incorrigible children's parents, as well as the parents of Penelope Lumley.
"This third book is just as fantastic as the previous two. Fun and quirky with smart word plays and literary references, it is a challenging but compelling read and a puzzling mystery."
Thankfully, Wood has written a third book in the series, THE UNSEEN GUEST, in which readers get closer to solving the mysteries and are able to follow Penelope and the children on yet another serious adventure. Recently back from London, where they narrowly escaped an angry mob of theater pirates, they learn of the imminent arrival of mother Ashton and her intrepid love interest and ostrich entrepreneur, Admiral Faucet. Before the Admiral can settle in at what he hopes to be his new home, he begins to plan the search for his missing ostrich, Bertha. Noting the excellent tracking skills of the Incorrigibles, he enlists them for the forest search, and of course Penelope must accompany them. Eventually the children find their way to a cave full of warm blankets and delicious sandwiches. Penelope realizes it was not just the wolves who kept the children alive all those years. But who could it have been?
Before she has a chance to ponder the question much longer, they are all on the hunt for Bertha again, but this time they are also being pursued by Lord Fredrick's hunting party. They make it back home safely (with the help of some friendly wolves), but the plot thickens quite a bit when a séance is planned and the ghost of Edward Ashton is asked to make an appearance. For Penelope, each time she gets close to answering a question or solving a mystery, a more mysterious question arises. But, like the plucky and capable Swanburne girl she is, she moves ever forward gathering information, looking for clues, and thinking about possibilities, all the while caring for the mischievous and clever Incorrigibles.
This third book is just as fantastic as the previous two. Fun and quirky with smart word plays and literary references, it is a challenging but compelling read and a puzzling mystery. Though in the beginning THE UNSEEN GUEST is a bit slower and more thoughtful than the first two, Wood perfectly balances the darker and sadder aspects of this story (Penelope misses her parents much more in this installment than in the earlier ones) with a charming playfulness. The chase and action scenes are also perfectly balanced by the more contemplative problem-solving elements of the story. At the very end, Wood gives readers a new set of clues to think about while awaiting #4.
Once again, the text is accompanied by the lovely and evocative illustrations of Jon Klassen, making the book a complete success.
Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on March 30, 2012