“A Thief in the House of Memory” by Tim Wynne-Jones

30 Jan


"A Thief in the House of Memory" is a good, short mystery novel set in Ontario, Canada. 16 year-old Declan (Dec to his friends) dreams of becoming an architect. In the meantime, he has a few issues to deal with — his mother left the family when he was ten, sending only two postcards after her disappearance; his father, Bernard, has preserved the uninhabited Steeple Hall, the family's imposing mansion, as a museum, with each room a time capsule view of its former inhabitants (for example, Dec's room as a little boy still has his red sneaker bed, map of the world cover, and childhood books); Bernard, the wealthy heir to an industrial fortune, spends all his time holed up in his shed, recreating miniature models of famous battles; and, oh yeah, Dec and his little sister Sunny find a dead truck driver in the entryway of Steeple Hall, crushed under a shattered bookcase and a bust of the philosopher Plato.

Once he discovers the dead man's body, Dec begins to remember more and more about his mother, Lindy. He "sees" her at Steeple Hall, pulling pranks and complaining about feeling smothered. As Dec's memories of his mom increase, he begins to question everything Bernard has told him about Lindy's disappearance. While Dec tries to solve that mystery, as well as understand the truck driver's bizarre death, he begins to suspect that his father is both a liar and a murderer.

This is an interesting, engaging story about memories and how they affect a person's ability to move forward in life. The mystery is compelling, and the author provides a series of clues and red herrings (that is, fake clues) that should keep most readers guessing. In addition, Dec's relationships with his friends — the compassionate, sort of offbeat Ezra and the smart, eccentric Viv — seem sweetly genuine, and so make a story about dead bodies and hidden family secrets all that much more believable. Definitely recommended for boys and girls in middle school and up.

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Posted by on January 30, 2007 in Uncategorized


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