________________ CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 6 . . . . October 9, 2009


The Uninvited.

Tim Wynne-Jones.
Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press (Distributed in Canada by Random House of Canada), 2009.
351 pp., hardcover, $19.00.
ISBN 978-0-7636-3984-6.

Subject Headings:
Mystery and detective stories.

Grades 10-12 / Ages 15-18.

Review by Joan Marshall.

***½ /4


He lifted the foam mattress and pushed it vertically against the wall. By then she'd found what she was looking for, a loose square of wood, which she lifted to reveal a circle of brass, laying flat on the underflooring. She lifted the ring and then pulled harder. A trapdoor opened.


"Holy shit!"

"No," said Mimi. "A hidey-hole. Kind of a nineteenth-century panic room."

He joined her and lifted the door completely open. It was heavy. Chains held it from folding all the way back. They peered down into a space about five feet deep, a tiny earthen room.

"I've been using this house for years," said Jay, "and I had no idea that was here."

"There's a tunnel to the outside," said Mimi. She was glowing with the sweat of lifting the heavy door.

"How did you know about it?" he asked.

She looked up at him, pushed a wing of hair back from her eyes.

"My father told me about it," she said. "He……Well, he owns this place."

Jay stared at her, his mouth hanging open. Then he closed it and swallowed. "That's really funny," he said at last. "Because my father owns this place."

To escape the inappropriate possessive attention of one of her first year professors, Mimi leaves New York and drives up to the Canadian cottage on a snye, (an island created by a river diversion) of her absent father, famous artist Marc Soto. There she finds Jay, a 22-year-old musician whose father is also Marc Soto. Watching them from the river in his canoe is Cramer, whose artist mother Mavis, Marc's long ago lover, is pressuring him for more money, despite his working three jobs. Cramer knows that Jay is his step-brother, but he can only leave Jay beautiful mementoes -- a dead blue jay, a glittering snake skin - unable to make contact with his more privileged sibling. However, he becomes enamoured of Mimi, unaware that she is his step-sister, filming her on her own video camera and breaking into the cottage to wreck her computer so that she will have to bring it in to the computer store where he works. Mimi and Jay become more and more nervous and edgy as they suspect a creepy neighbour, Stooley Peters, and/or the stalking prof of harassment. Jay's girlfriend Iris helps them to identity Cramer as a possible suspect, and they leave him a note asking for a meeting. In a rain soaked finale, Cramer's mother Mavis holds Mimi at gunpoint, demanding money, and committing suicide when Jay and Cramer break in to rescue Mimi.

     The three main characters are all realistic. Both Jay and Mimi, well-loved adult children of divorced, busy parents, are privileged, artistic people. Mimi is self-deprecating and witty, uncertain of her ability to write scripts, and shaken by her prof'‘s devotion. Jay, like many early twenties men, is lost in his music, artistic block his worst problem until his guitars are stolen. Cramer represents another large demographic, dancing with his mother's mental illness, and working 24/7 at blue collar jobs. Stooley Peters is creepy and grumpy. Wayne Pitney, Mavis' current boyfriend, is a consummate thief and partier, despised by Cramer. Wynne-Jones is especially good at depicting these underprivileged characters. It's a little disingenuous that the person scaring everyone is, once again, mentally ill, which reinforces the stereotype of the "psycho" killer who holds a grudge for twenty years.

     The dialogue between the young people is up-to-date and sharp, showing their personalities. Mimi lives on her cell-phone and emails her New York friend, Cramer fixes computers, and Jay has set up a modern recording studio at the cottage. As the story is told from the point of view of each of the siblings, there is much reflection and introspection that also reveals history and character, yet slows the action enough to ratchet up the suspense. Cramer's thoughts as he lies in the hospital in a coma bracket the novel and add mystery.

     Older teens will buy into Jay and Mimi's attempts to solve their own problems without consulting their parents. Some will sympathize with Cramer's persistence and loyalty to his mother. All will revel in the creepy possibilities that float over the snye.

Highly Recommended.

Joan Marshall is a Winnipeg, MB, bookseller.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.