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The Valley of Secrets

Review

The Valley of Secrets

Stephen Lansbury, an English orphan who has never known his relatives, receives an amazing inheritance from his great-uncle. Now he owns an estate called Lansbury Hall in Cornwall. He must meet the conditions of the will in order to inherit the property: leave the grounds and house as they are, never invite anyone to visit, and never share the results of his Great-Uncle Theodore's research.

When Stephen arrives at Lansbury Hall, he's surprised to find a large, elegant house on lushly overgrown land. Despite his hopes of a housekeeper who happens to be an excellent cook, no one is there to greet him. Lansbury Hall is beautiful but mystifies Stephen. He finds some strange objects in the house, but much worse is the feeling that someone is watching him. In fact, whenever he steps outside the house, he is convinced that a large audience secretly views him from the unkempt yard.

Curiously, the village shopkeeper appears to believe that his recluse Great-Uncle Theodore is still alive. Stephen searches the town cemetery but can find no grave with Theodore's name on it. He's also puzzled by Lansbury Hall's gate, which is locked at times but open at others. Who is locking and unlocking it?

More mysteries bother Stephen. Some creature nibbles at a beautiful flowering vine; another makes weird gurgling cries and slithers into the lake before Stephen can see it. Odd exotic plants grow everywhere on the property. The out-of-place animals and plants unnerve Stephen. Adding to his unease, he discovers a neat vegetable garden on the grounds, complete with freshly dug potatoes. Indoors, someone or something steals Stephen's watch and then places it in a nest of blankets, along with other shiny objects.

Stephen discovers and shares Great-Uncle Theodore's long-ago adventures on the Amazon River by reading his travel journals. In fact, Stephen is soon convinced that reading his uncle's journals will unlock the mystery of his new home. But will it also somehow give him the money he'll need to keep Lansbury Hall? And can anything cure Stephen's loneliness?

I loved this book and the intriguing and educational story within a story of Theodore's Amazon adventures. Long descriptive passages will either delight or torment the reader (count me delighted). The detailed description doesn't slow the plot intolerably and works nicely to further the suspense. I was disappointed that Stephen's main problem was solved rather easily, and not by him. Despite this quibble, I adored THE VALLEY OF SECRETS and recommend it to anyone patient enough to absorb an unusual story at a leisurely pace.

Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon on January 25, 2005

The Valley of Secrets
by Charmian Hussey

  • Publication Date: January 25, 2005
  • Hardcover: 382 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
  • ISBN-10: 0689878621
  • ISBN-13: 9780689878626