From School Library Journal
Grade 8 Up–When her mother dies of cancer, 16-year-old Katie finds it painful to continue the patterns of her old life, so she makes the unexpected choice of taking a summer job in the gardens of the nearby estate belonging to reclusive Miss Martine. There she works under the caretaker with the other part-timers and stumbles upon a two-pronged mystery: Why are they digging so deeply near the river, and how does that relate to whatever sent the debutante Miss Martine out of society more than 50 years earlier? Katie's father, a brilliant art-restoration expert, contributes to the search for answers as he cleans an elaborate painting that he believes Miss Martine's father, a millionaire industrialist, created near the time of her seclusion. Research into some donated boxes of local lore at the library and assistance from the librarian and an intriguing boy who also works at the estate aid in her investigation. Meanwhile, Katie grieves: memories of a family spur-of-the-moment trip to Barcelona the summer before remind her of how her mother made an event out of everything and made her feel loved. Somehow it's easier for the teen to deal with Miss Martine's ghosts than with the aching absence of her mother. Nice writing and characterization can't quite compensate for a lack of suspense, a romance that never really gets off the ground, and a story that doesn't draw one in.–Suzanne Gordon, Peachtree Ridge High School, Suwanee, GA
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Grief and all its anguish is at the heart of this story. Reeling from her mother’s death, Katie, 16, takes a summer job on a nearby wealthy estate as part of a work crew constructing a gazebo. As she bonds with her fellow teen worker, Danny, she stumbles across secrets about the beautiful, rich recluse who lives in the big house. Why has wacky Miss Martine not been seen for over 50 years? Is the hole that they’re digging really for the gazebo? With the help of the glamorous town librarian (yes, glamorous), Katie and Danny research local lore in newspaper files and microfilm. The connections between solving the mystery and Katie’s bereavement struggle are sometimes overstated. Her first-person present-tense narrative is clear and lyrical, though,especially in her portrayal of her genius dad, an artist who asks, “How do you paint regret?” and in her discovery that “beauty and sadness can both live in one place.” Grades 8-11. --Hazel Rochman