Last year, Sharon Gosling's 'The Golden Butterfly' was one of my favourites. With 'The House of Hidden Wonders' she has surpassed my expectations. This is a superb story full of mystery, spooks and historical intrigue. It's sure to be one of my favourites this year too.
Zinnie and her sisters live in the poverty-stricken underground of 19th century Edinburgh. Times are hard and Zinnie often has to take desperate measures to earn a coin every now and again. So when a ghostly figure is seen in the tunnels below, Zinnie and her sisters are thrown into a strange set of circumstances that will lead them to the new, mysterious museum: the House of Wonders. But what is hidden there and can Zinnie uncover a truth that might just help change the life of her and her sisters forever?
As with 'The Golden Butterfly', Sharon Gosling crafts an intelligent plot and writes beautiful, flowing prose that is just so captivating to read. 19th century Edinburgh is intricately described, atmospheric and inhabited with Dickensian-like characters that bring charm, wit and menace in equal measure. I love that Conan-Doyle, among other historical characters, plays a role in the unfolding mystery. Gosling writes them so well and I'm convinced she must have known these characters personally in another life. Zinnie is also fabulous and someone to really route for - a kind of feminist Artful Dodger with a big heart.
The plot itself manages to combine seances, ghosts, mediums, museums, travel, robbery, murder, historical characters and poverty into an exciting and clever story. There is a nod to the 'Golden Butterfly' too and a sense that this could be the beginning of a series of adventures with Zinnie and her sisters. I really, really hope so. South America? Go on! Please.
It's also worth mentioning that I loved seeing Sharon Gosling's own prints being used as illustrations. I think a book illustrated with more of them would be a fine thing!
Another top book from Gosling. Beautifully written with mystery, horror, wonder and a dash of Sherlock Holmes and Dickens - what more could you want?