Nancy Parker’s Spooky Speculations


1920. Fourteen-year-old Nancy Potter, housemaid and sleuth extraordinaire, is off on a new adventure. She’s been offered a job as a general servant to the eccentric but kind Miss Dearing, who has just inherited the spooky Oxcoombe Grange. She wants to turn it into a donkey sanctuary but, unbeknownst to her, some dodgy local characters are determined to prevent her.

How will Nancy cope with running such a large, draughty house on her own? And what about the mysterious bangs in the night? Fortunately, Nancy’s friend, Ella Otter, who is at a posh school nearby (and hates it) promises to help Nancy uncover the Grange’s spooky secrets.

I enjoyed the two distinct voices: Nancy’s lively, if ill-spelt, journal shows us what a maid-of-all-work was expected to put up with in the 1920s: long hours, endless cleaning, wrestling with the ancient cooking range, and few labour-saving devices (though there is electricity). Not to mention trying to control the wilful donkeys.

Ella, the daughter of an eminent professor, has her own problems at her school for young ladies where she must cope with pettifogging rules, bitchy girls and disgusting meals. Ella’s experience is no jolly hockey-sticks Angela Brazil schoolgirls’ story. Instead, we see it from the point of view of a pupil whose mind set is totally at odds with the school system.

The story is a bit of a slow burn at first and the plot is, perhaps, over-complicated. However, once I became drawn into the adventure, I was rooting for Nancy and willing both girls on. I enjoyed the way that nothing about the house was quite what it seemed and Miss Dearing, too, had to develop and move on. Nancy herself is a great heroine: curious about things, speculative, brave and intelligent. Girls of ten plus should enjoy it.

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(UK) 9780192746979