August 2008, David Fickling Books
336 pages, Paperback
Secrets, intrigue, spies, bodyguards, ballet, ballet-obsessed grandmother, mysterious boy, disappearing tutor, human trafficking, illegal business, families (broken), truth revealed, childhood lost,
Summary from Egmont
From the dark of the Bulgarian underworld to the grandeur of central London, what you don't know can't harm you. Or so Nettie believes. Nettie lives a privileged life in a mansion and she is adored by her parents. But her world shatters when her beloved tutor, Miss Kovachev, mysteriously disappears from the Round Tower. Does the ghost in the shadows of Nettie's house have something to do with it? Will spooky Great-Aunt Laetitia help her piece together the fragments? And why won't her parents tell her anything? Everyone has a facade. Everyone has a secret.
What makes this beautifully told and imaginative story more exciting is the way it is written. That possibly is an obvious statement, but the story switches from Nettie's story to Miss Kovachev's. Slowly, the reader figures out the truth with all the hints laid down. Benny is another character who the story focuses on - he becomes Nettie's friend - well, as long as she wants him. He does his best to investigate where her tutor went. He risks his father's job, their own home to find the truth. It's a dark truth, one which lurks in every society.
Human trafficking in this book focuses on getting people illegally into England, so they can be exploited in different jobs. Learning about Miss Kovachev's story was heartbreaking. She ignored the early signs that the man she was with didn't have her best interests to heart. When she does realise the reality, it's almost too late. I got to learn her fate, bit by bit. It kept me glued to the book, because I was terrified it would be a sad ending.
Initially I thought Nettie was a spoilt girl (not quite a brat). She had everything, and yet had nothing. She had everything money could buy, and yet she didn't have the attention she both craved and needed from her parents. She missed her tutor, and kept thinking about her because they connected with each other. She doesn't trust the bodyguards, and she slowly starts to do the thing her father doesn't want her to do - she asks question. She keeps asking them, even when people suggest that she stop what she did. I wanted her to learn the truth, and I also didn't. She was so innocent and naive. But she's strong, and will succeed in life, no matter who her family are.
A heartbreaking tale of how one little rich girl gets curious and investigates what her father really does, and by so doing so shatters her happy life, but helps saves the lives of others.
Suggested reading: okay, the book I'm going to suggest is on a completely different topic but the style of writing is a little similar. Amelia Dee and the Peacock Lamp by Odo Hirsch