Title: Nooks & Crannies
Author: Jessica Lawson
Narrated by: Susie Riddell
Length: 7 hrs and 27 mins
Format: Unabridged Audiobook
Publisher: Dreamscape Media, LLC
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Audible | B&N
Source: Audiobook Jukebox
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Wine Glasses
Tabitha Crum is a girl with a big imagination and a love for mystery novels, though her parents think her only talent is being a nuisance. She doesn't have a friend in the world, except her pet mouse, Pemberley, with whom she shares her dingy attic bedroom.
Then, on the heels of a rather devastating announcement made by her mother and father, Tabitha receives a mysterious invitation to the country estate of the wealthy but reclusive Countess of Windermere, whose mansion is rumored to be haunted. There, she finds herself among five other children, none of them sure why they've been summoned. But soon, a very big secret will be revealed— a secret that will change their lives forever and put Tabitha’s investigative skills to the test.
"There are only three motives for all crimes. Tibbs: money, power, and love. Sometimes those things get muddled together, of course, and you could argue that hunger is a bloody good motivator as well, but one might lump that in with love of self or love of others or love of food, and---well, never mind all that. Pass the pickled radishes. - Inspector Percival Pensive, The Case of the Gilded Guardian
NOOKS & CRANNIES by Jessica Lawson is a delightful middle grade cozy mystery targeting an audience of pre-teens. IF I were in that age group, I have no doubt that I would have rated NOOKS & CRANNIES five stars. However, I'm in my sixties, and, while NOOKS & CRANNIES was an enjoyable listen that I never considered not finishing, it was a bit tame for my tastes.
This is the story of Tabitha, the mistreated, unloved child of two of the worst parents ever - the despicable Crums. Tabitha bemoans her lack of human friends. However, she is not completely alone as she does have an animal friend, a little mouse named Pemberly, who Tabitha had rescued. Tabitha aspires to be a full-fledged P.I. when she grows up. She loves to read Inspector Percival Pensive's mystery series and she credits the Inspector for stimulating her interest in detective work.
As the story opens, Tabitha has been given one of six coveted invitations to the country estate of wealthy Countess Camilla DeMoss for the weekend. The weekend ends up being much more than the kids or their parents bargained for with a full-fledged mystery that, of course, requires Tabitha's surprisingly sharp young sleuthing skills - with the assistance of her mouse - to be employed. I confess that some of the really suspenseful scenes made me forget to breathe.
I thoroughly enjoyed the wisdom and the deductive reasoning shared by Tabitha and her little mouse. However, when Pemberly would chitter, I couldn't help but cringe. I'm not a huge fan of mice. I was, however, in awe of Tabitha's spunk, her creativity and her ability to think positively even though she had been dealt some truly wretched parents.
Following please find a few of my favorite quotes from this cute children's tale:
"A person's family, Tabitha realized, was the thing that held them up, so that life could still be illuminated in the darkest of times. A family member could be a mouse. A family member could be an Inspector that nobody would ever meet outside the pages of a novel. Depending on the circumstance, a family member might even be discovered in a person you just met."
Exclusive Reveal of Windermere Six
Thanks to an anonymous source, the Times is pleased to share an exclusive list of the six children who were transported yesterday evening to Hollingsworth Hall, the magnificent and secluded home of Camilla Lenore DeMoss, the Countess of Windermere. They are, in no particular order:
Oliver Appleby: Heir to the Appleby Jewelry fortune. This young chap is known to be an excellent student who also excels at rowing and cricket.
Viola Dale: The Dales are well known throughout London for their dedication to social reform and relief for those in distress. Young Viola has been a presence on the charitable event circuit since the age of two.
Frances Wellington: Miss Wellington's parents are internationally known art collectors who have an impeccable eye for up-and-coming talent in sculpture and painting. They also delve into gems of historical value. Frances is privately tutored, and her deliciously expensive introduction to London society is already being buzzed about.
Barnaby Trundle: Young Barnaby attends school in South London. His father works in the textile industry. One of his teachers says Barnaby is "occasionally quick-tempered with other boys in his form."
Edward Herringbone: The Herringbones are close acquaintances with the aforementioned Dales, their own admirable interests lying mainly in reducing poverty by increasing educational opportunities. Edward has been called "an indubitable library of a boy" by one of his teaching masters at St. Stephen's.
Tabitha Crum: Miss Crum's father is employed by the Wilting Bank of South London. A neighbor of the family says that the lucky child "talks to herself" and calls the Crums "socially famished."
She'd been seven when her mother had made the comparison of love and irritable itching. Tabitha remembered the statement quite well because it was the same year children at school had suddenly gotten it in their heads that she had a case of head lice. That had been a difficult time and nobody had gotten close to Tabitha since. Of course, with the addition of a pet mouse over the last year, her lack of friendship could perhaps be further explained by the misapprehension that she spoke to herself. Pemberley was a most excellent consultant in all matters, but he tended to stay out of sight, so Tabitha could somewhat understand the slanderous comments.
Or it might have been the unfortunate, uneven unattractive, blunt-scissored haircut her mother was so fond of giving her.
Or it could have been the simple truth that making friends can be an awkward and a difficult thing when it's a one-sided endeavor and you've a pet mouse and you've been painted as odd and quiet and shy, when really you're just a bit misunderstood.
In any case, nobody at St. John's seemed lacking for companionship except her. But Tabitha reminded herself that there were far worse things than not having friends. In fact, she often made a game of listing far worse things:
• eating the contents of a sneeze
• creatures crawling into her ear holes.
• losing a body part (Though that one was debatable depending on the part. An ear or small toe might be worth a friend or two.
I listened to the audio of this book narrated by Susie Riddell. The narrator delivered a solid, well-paced performance though some of the boys sounded like men. Other than that one small complaint, the narrator did an excellent job of bringing all the characters to life. She had a clear, pleasant voice. I certainly would not hesitate to pick up another book that she has voiced.
This was a well-written juvenile mystery with a plethora of adventure, unexpected twists and turns, colorful characters, and humor galore. There's betrayals, ghosts, secret passageways, and lessons to be learned. Along the way, Tabitha and the children come to realize that family doesn't have to be your blood kin, nor does family define who you are.
Have no fear, everything wraps up wonderfully. This would be a lovely book to listen to with your children or grandchildren. I would recommend this book to young readers who enjoy books such as the Harry Potter series, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the Pippi Longstocking series and Orphan Annie.