The Ghosts of Greenglass House by Kate Milford: Thieves and smugglers
Updated: Mar 24, 2020
sequel to Greenglass House
Overall rating: 9.5/10
Quality of writing: 9/10
Concerning content: minimal
Age level: 10 and up
In this excellent sequel to Greenglass House, Kate Milford recounts the further adventures of Milo Pine, a Chinese adoptee whose parents run a strange old smugglers’ inn. When a group of carolers known as “the Waits” arrive at Greenglass House and people start being mysteriously attacked, it’s up to Milo to figure out which of the guests is at fault. (If you’ve read Greenglass House, this should sound familiar. However, Milford certainly avoids merely repeating the previous book's plot.) Along the way, Milo must locate several stolen items (parts of a fabled smuggler’s cache) and learn more about the guests through stories they tell, all the while undergoing internal conflict over his difficulties at school (related to his Chinese heritage). Overall, The Ghosts of Greenglass House follows through on readers’ expectations after reading Greenglass House—both are equally exciting, suspenseful, engaging, and mysterious.
As in her other works, Milford does a commendable job of spinning a fascinating tale in this book: the plotline is complex, but not to the point of confusion, and the plot twists are well-placed and satisfying, leaving readers asking why they didn’t anticipate them. The plot centers around two points: Milo’s attempts to solve the mystery at Greenglass House, and his negotiating difficulties at school about his adoption and heritage. With elements that encompass nearly all the various unique characters—not to mention seemingly-insignificant details—the plot of The Ghosts of Greenglass House is among the most engaging I’ve read recently, and means it’s very easy to just keep reading… and reading… and reading… Regardless, this book’s plot is extremely well-crafted and merits a 10/10 rating.
In The Ghosts of Greenglass House, readers will re-encounter familiar characters from the previous book (Georgie and Clem, the pair of good-natured cat burglars; Meddy, the ghost who loves role-playing games; and of course Milo himself); however, Milford also introduces many new characters, carefully avoiding any hint of stagnation character-wise from book to book. These new characters are as varied as the cast of Greenglass House and include a clumsy chimney sweep, an awkward art student, and a disguised smuggler. Populated with such widely differing characters, this book seems almost like a kaleidoscope, with each successive chapter offering new tidbits of information about different characters as Milo goes about his investigations. Furthermore, the reader gets to see some very nice character development in Milo as he learns to deal with a teacher who criticizes him for his Chinese heritage at school. Overall, the characters in this book are varied, quirky, and well-developed; they earn The Ghosts of Greenglass House a 9/10 rating on characters.
While this book is certainly mystery-based and is therefore perhaps a bit confusing at times (the suspense and plot twists wouldn’t work if the characters always knew everything), the storyline overall is definitely readable. Furthermore, Milford’s style is straightforward and easy to understand, clarifying rather than obscuring the events she describes. This book also contains fewer “sub-stories” told by characters than Greenglass House does, which makes it a bit simpler to follow. Overall, The Ghosts of Greenglass House merits a 4/10 on difficulty.
Quality of writing
One of the best qualities of Milford’s style is that it never feels forced, like she’s making the characters do something that they naturally wouldn’t. One can almost imagine that she simply set up the setting and backstory and allowed the characters to “play out” of their own accord. This quality makes The Ghosts of Greenglass House quite realistic and fun to read. In addition, Milford’s style is characterized by unique descriptions (when a certain character becomes downcast, the “wattage of his smile” is said to decrease, etc). Finally, as mentioned before, we see some well-considered character development in Milo (which also constitutes what I would consider a rather tactful addressing of some racial issues). Overall, the quality of writing in Greenglass House is excellent and deserves a 9/10 rating.]
Concerning content/ age level
The Ghosts of Greenglass House has little to no concerning content. There is no sexual content or language, and the only scenes that could be considered “fight scenes” mainly involve talking and running away. As with Greenglass House, this book is very much at the mild end of the “concerning content” spectrum; however, I would advise readers and parents of readers to exercise their own discretion in all areas. This book is recommended for ages 10 and up.