A lavish hotel with chandeliers, a lake for ice-skating, snow-covered hills for skiing, a candy kitchen and a library complete with a librarian—who wouldn’t want to stay at Winterhouse for the Christmas season? Orphan Elizabeth Somers has no choice when her stingy aunt and uncle disappear, leaving her only a train ticket and reservations at the grand hotel. But in this charming, detailed debut novel by Ben Guterson, the 11-year-old bibliophile immediately finds Winterhouse to be magical—perhaps too magical.
More than the setting, the guests and staff—from proprietor Norbridge Falls, who entertains with evening tricks, to the old men who return year after year to work on a 35,000-piece puzzle—are what truly make Winterhouse special. Elizabeth is thrilled to find a friend in Freddy, who shares her love of anagrams, but she can’t help but become suspicious of a dubious book-collecting couple. When Elizabeth finds a rare book about codes and discovers tales of Winterhouse family secrets that can be unlocked through a magical volume, she wonders if she can solve these mysteries.
Guterson blends enchanting hotel luxuries, warm friendship and plenty of word games and book references with creepy villains and ghostly elements as Elizabeth puts her sleuthing skills to work. Elizabeth’s biggest mystery, however, may be her own family history.
The first book in a planned trilogy, Winterhouse is a cozy-socks, comfy-chair story—the kind to snuggle up with on a long, cold evening.