In the Shadow of Spindrift House – Mira Grant

I fell in love with Julie Dillon’s cover illustration at first sight. It’s so delightfully ominous and between the house that should be mine and the promise of tentacled creepiness I was sold. I may have already been sold by the fact that my all time favourite author wrote it but even if I hadn’t, that illustration would have clinched the deal. Having said that, this is the first Seanan/Mira book I’ve read where I didn’t fall in love at first page and I feel like I’ve somehow failed as a reader.

Spindrift House has had a great deal of time to decide what it wants to be, and what it wants to be is unforgiving.

On a hillside in Port Mercy, Maine, “A Healthy Place for Families”, you will find Spindrift House. It was built some time in the 1800’s and while local legends disagree on many of the details, everyone agrees it was built by someone who wasn’t a local, someone who died soon afterwards by falling from its widow’s walk.

There’s a mystery about Spindrift House that needs to be solved and the Answer Squad (this book’s Mystery Incorporated equivalent, minus Scooby-Doo and Scooby Snacks) are certain they’re up for the task. The Answer Squad are:

Harlowe– “cryptography fanatic, mystery freak, beloved nerd”. Harlowe, the brains of the Squad, is a girl with a tragic past. She’s in love with Addison and is the foster sister of Kevin.

Kevin – foster brother of Harlowe. Kevin lives on a family farm with his mother, he has an older brother and adores his pet chickens. He doesn’t date.

Addison – best friend of Harlowe and Andy’s twin. She snores and shares the role of “being the beauty and being the bruiser” with Andy.

Andy – Addison’s twin. He’s the quiet one and has anxiety.

The difficulty with being a recognized member of a teen detective club is that “teen” was always a limited-time offer.

Harlowe doesn’t want to lose her found family and hopes that solving the mystery of Spindrift House will keep the Squad together.

Once we reached Spindrift House, nothing would be simple, or predictable. We were counting on it. The word for a simple, predictable mystery is “solved.”

This is a Mira Grant novella. There’s no such thing as simple.

And you may want to stop reading now because I’m about to go off on a really weird tangent but for some reason I can’t help myself. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

So, I’m not one to shy away from telling anyone who will listen about Seanan McGuire. Every Heart a Doorway was life changing for me and secured her place as my favourite author of all time. While I still have many, many of her books to read I’ve figured out that, while written by the same literary extraordinaire and having definite similarities, Seanan and Mira books have different flavours. It’s like they’re both caramel but Mira books are salted caramel, or perhaps because of the sciency bits, they’re more like NaCh caramel.

While this book was labelled salted caramel it felt more like caramel with some geometry, so maybe caramel of a specific shape, one without straight lines. While I love all caramel I was expecting one type and although there were traces of it, I also found more of the type I wasn’t expecting. Why did I use that analogy?! Now, not only have I confused myself, I’m hungry too.

“Some mysteries aren’t meant to be solved.”

Anyway, while I enjoyed this read I’m not desperate to reread it, and that’s a first for me with Seanan/Mira. I didn’t connect with these characters, the ending felt rushed and I feel like I somehow messed up an incantation or something, because I didn’t feel the magic I’ve experienced while reading literally every other book of hers so far.

Content warnings include mention of death by suicide and stillbirth.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Nature abhors a straight line. The natural world is a place of curves and softened edges, of gentle mists and welcoming spirals. Nature remembers deviation; nature does not forgive.

For Harlowe Upton-Jones, life has never been a straight line. Shipped off to live with her paternal grandparents after a mysterious cult killed her mother and father, she has grown up chasing the question behind the curve, becoming part of a tight-knit teen detective agency. But “teen” is a limited time offer, and when her friends start looking for adult professions, it’s up to Harlowe to find them one last case so that they can go out in a blaze of glory.

Welcome to Spindrift House.

The stories and legends surrounding the decrepit property are countless and contradictory, but one thing is clear: there are people willing to pay a great deal to determine the legal ownership of the house. When Harlowe and her friends agree to investigate the mystery behind the manor, they do so on the assumption that they’ll be going down in history as the ones who determined who built Spindrift House – and why. The house has secrets. They have the skills. They have a plan. They have everything they need to solve the mystery.

Everything they need except for time. Because Spindrift House keeps its secrets for a reason, and it has no intention of letting them go.

Nature abhors a straight line.

Here’s where the story bends. 

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