The Unseen Guest. The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place Book 3. by Maryrose Wood. Narrated by Katherine Kellgren.
Young governess Penelope and her charges, the three Incorrigible Children, have only recently returned to Ashton place after the visit to London chronicled in the second book of the series. Penelope still spends a great deal of time thinking about what happened there – the questions that Miss Mortimer, her former guardian, left unanswered, the real location and condition of her parents, and the budding relations with Simon Harley-Dickinson. Meanwhile, the children must be educated. As they are daring to look for bird species to add to the field guide they are making, they see an ostrich. The mystery is soon solved as Lord Ashton’s long-absent mother shows up with a prospective fiancé, Admiral Faucet. Admiral Faucet clearly wishes to marry Lady Ashton for her fortune, which he is planning to use as start-up capital for an ostrich racing business. Lord Ashton, on the other hand, thinks that an ostrich hunt in his very own forest would be simply capital. Rather more observant than the resident Ashtons, Admiral Faucet recruits the children to track down Bertha the ostrich, still lost in the forest, and bring her back to her POE or Permanent Ostrich Enclosure before Lord Ashton’s hunt can kill her. As the children are studying the poetry of Edgar Allan Poe, the POE leads to frequent confusion. The idea of an overnight trip to the forest is somewhat traumatic for Penelope, who must be talked out of packing the entire nursery. But in the forest, the children are in their element, easily able to track down Bertha and unmoved by little things like rain. Penelope even gets to visit the cave where they lived before they came to Ashton place – complete with trunks of blankets and pillows, art supplies, and sandwiches delivered every morning. The mystery deepens even as the caring if wild nature of the children is contrasted with the bloodthirsty and avaricious nature of the adults, who are all too willing to kill the innocent Bertha and to consider that the children might make better tracking animals than children. In an effort to stop the older Lady Ashton from marrying Admiral Faucet, Penelope comes up with the idea of a séance – but will the séance reveal even more than Penelope had bargained for? As the series goes on, some questions have been answered, some had answers alluded to, but as even more questions have come up, the mystery is far from solved. Meanwhile, the story continues to have captivating characters (even if many of them are perfectly, deliberately stock characters), an exciting storyline, and a great sense of humor. Also, new sayings from Agatha Swanburne, the founder of the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females. This series continues to delight. Katherine Kellgren could make a shopping list fascinating, and with material like this to work with, the results are top notch. Even if Penelope is arguably the lead character, the wild children and the adventure are more than enough to keep my boy enthralled.