The Turnkey of Highgate Cemetery

Written by Allison Rushby
Review by Val Adolph

Early in WWII, facing increasingly devastating bombing, people in Britain were deeply concerned that Hitler was about to invade them and take over the UK just as he had taken over other European countries. One very unlikely leader valiantly trying to head off this invasion is Flossie, the Turnkey of Highgate cemetery in London. Although she was only 12 years old when she died, it is Flossie’s job as Turnkey to ensure that everyone in the cemetery is at rest. This includes Amelia, a child unhappy because her dolls were not buried with her, and Mrs. Gough whose complaining has not decreased merely because she has died.

Highgate is one of the oldest and largest cemeteries in London and, worried about the effect of a severe bombing raid on the folk at rest there, Flossie goes to the high gallery of St. Paul’s Cathedral to assess the extent of the fires and devastation. There, high in the cathedral, she sees a man wearing the uniform of a Nazi SS officer. She tries to give chase, but the man disappears into thin air. Puzzled and worried, Flossie approaches the Turnkeys of the other historic cemeteries for help. She ropes in her Advisor, Hazel the fox, and even gets advice from her dead father. But it is up to Flossie to delve into the problem and place herself at risk to save her country.

This delightful book, both touching and exciting, will appeal to young people. It carries a comforting dual message, first that death is not a transition to be feared, but also that life itself is worthwhile. The author has given us a highly imaginative book that has an exciting plot and some lively dead characters. More importantly, it has a deep spiritual message.