Monday, December 5, 2016

Wormwood Mire : A Stella Montgomery Intrigue by Judith Rossell

mire : a stretch of swampy or boggy ground
wormwooda woody shrub with a bitter aromatic taste, 
used in medicine.

In this picture you can see Stella reading a book.  There are two books which feature in Wormwood Mire and while the one you see here is quite important (the journal of the reclusive original owner of Wormwood Mire) the other is simply awful - a book about behaviour and the dire consequences of misbehaviour - a book favoured by the aunts.

Do you remember the final scene in the first book?  Stella was heading back into the hotel with her austere aunts.  

"And I'm going to find out who I am,' she said. ... Stella hesitated for a moment.  She waved one last time. Then she turned and walked up the steps to the front door of the hotel."

As this second book begins Stella has been sent away to Wormwood Mire the home of a distant cousin. His two children are living in Wormwood Mire with a governess. Uncle Frederick is travelling abroad, the house is rumored to be haunted and so Stella finds herself living with her cousins Strideforth and Hortense and Miss Araminter their distracted governess.  The house is huge and mysterious, the gardens are filled with exotic plants and there are creatures from around the world originally collected by Wilberforce Montgomery.  Some are taxidermy but others are alive. One of these creatures seems to be living in the lake.  It is a monster and it may have killed some of the local sheep and possibly a child. Stella, Strideforth and the silent Hortense set off to unravel this mystery and help Stella make sense of a photo she treasures of her mother and twin babies in a pram. One of the babies is Stella herself but who is the other, her twin, and where is she now?

One real strength of the writing by Judith Rossell is the way she creates a strong sense of place :

"They hurried across the yard and made their way around the long row of empty stables, through the orchard and across the terrace to reach the overgrown path that led to the lake They climbed down the mossy steps, ducking under overhanging branches and pushing through the dripping, jungly garden. The lake stretched away into the mist, covered with water-lilies."

This is the second installment in the series about Stella Montgomery.  I adored Withering-by-sea so perhaps begin by reading my review.  Here is a detailed review of Wormwood Mire.

Wormwood Mire can stand alone but I do recommend you try to read Withering-by-sea if you can.

Below I have included the US cover.  It is only slightly different which makes me ask why?

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