“Listen.” Each of the mysterious guests at Greenglass House is called upon to tell a story and this is the traditional formula for the start. All of the guests have a secret – a reason for being at the house. All have a different reason, but all of the reasons have something to do with the house. But even more mysterious than each one’s secret is the fact that they all show up in the week before Christmas…during a snow storm.
Traditionally a very slow week in his family’s business, adopted son and only child Milo is looking forward to some quiet time alone with his parents in their rambling five story home at the top of a cliff overlooking a smugglers’ cove. In fact, smuggling is a large part of the local economy and Greenglass House was built by one of the most notorious smugglers, Doc Holystone. After his death, the house was sold to Milo’s grandparents. But one by one, more and more guest show up to stay. Milo’s parents, the Pines, even call in their usual cook for reinforcements.
When guests’ personal items go missing, Milo and his new friend Meddy devise a plan to figure out exactly what is going on, and why each of the guests has come to stay. They begin by making themselves some role playing characters to go along with Meddy’s favorite game, which just happens to be the game Milo’s father played when he was younger.
This is a quiet, well developed, multifaceted mystery that is sure to appeal to a large swath of middle grade readers. Milo, along with solving the mystery, is dealing with some very personal issues about his adoption, which are complicated by the fact that he and his parents are of different ethnicities. He also seems to have always been very close with his parents, helping them out with the family business, and perhaps not engaging in many close peer relationships. This comes out in his interactions with Meddy, and we see him struggle to let go of some of his more particular ways. Every different thread of this story, from Milo’s relationships, to the guests’ ulterior motives, to the role playing game, to the stories being told each evening, to the fantastically rich history of Greenglass House itself, is completely engaging. And the climax of the story – Oh. My. Word. I have no problem understanding why this novel won the Edgar Award for Juvenile Literature.
What is surprising to me is how little I’ve heard about it. If I’m remembering correctly, I believe I heard about it from John Scalzi, of all people (or, it could have been Chuck Wendig.) I just remember it wasn’t from someone I normally depend on for Middle Grade recommendations. I purchased a copy of it at my local book store’s semi-annual sale, because nothing else I wanted to buy was available yet – but oh, how glad I am that I did. If you collect for middle grade readers, I highly recommend purchasing multiple copies.