Winterborne Home for Vengeance and Valour by Ally Carter
Lothian Children's Book, 2020. ISBN: 9780734419163. 256pp.
(Ages 8-12) Highly recommended. April was left by her mother with a note saying she would be back to collect April as soon as she could, and April has been waiting patiently in foster care for 10 years. April's mother also gave her a mysterious key that April always wears around her neck.
While on excursion in a museum April notices the key matches the crest of the infamous Winterborne family. So, when April accidently sets fire to the exhibit it sets in motion a series of events that sees her living in their mansion called Winterborne House with 4 other orphans. She is desperate to know what her key unlocks and starts a quest to search the house from top to bottom. In her search she unearths the secret of the missing (and presumed dead) billionaire, Gabriel Winterborne, who was the sole survivor of a family tragedy which killed his entire family. She finds the billionaire living below the house and now she is determined to get him to help her solve the mystery of her key and reclaim his inheritance before nasty Uncle Evert makes sure he is dead and claims the fortune for himself.
This is the first book in a series, and this is made obvious as we only get sketchy details of each character in this first story. Each orphan in the book has a special talent that April uses to help her solve her mystery and bring about a positive result for the very uncooperative billionaire. The mansion is peopled with the usual trusty butler, a caring Ms Nelson who runs the Winterborne House and has a long association with the family and a shadowy super-hero who may or may not be an urban legend.
Some threads of the story were left hanging in the end. The disappearance of Ms Nelson at the end of the book is puzzling. Also, the key around April's neck was dealt with in the story and we get to know what it opens, but we are left with no idea why April wore it or why her mother had it in the first place.
It was quite a fast-paced story that moved along well most of the time and I am sure it will leave middle primary readers waiting for the next installment. Themes: Orphans and orphanages, Foster care, Missing persons, Revenge, Mysteries, Friendship.