Maud Flynn is living at the Barbary Asylum for Female Orphans and hates it! She has trouble with authority and dislikes the horrible living conditions. Lucky for her two nice elderly women come looking to adopt an 8-year-old but pick 11-year-old Maud instead. At first, Maud is thrilled to be pampered and living in the almost lap of luxury with the three Hawthorne sisters. There is one catch though and that is she must remain hidden; a secret adopted child, never venturing outside and tiptoeing to her third floor room when visitors come calling. Eventually her favorite sister, Hyacinth, informs her of the family "business" and why she must remain hidden until they can put her to work as a "dead" child in a seance!
This book is a lot of fun. The premise of the Hawthorne sisters holding seances to convince wealthy clients of their dead relatives desires is definite trickery but when they bring Maud in to play a young girl who drowned it becomes too much to bear. Maud, as an orphan, craves human love and the idea that the sisters only have concern for her when she serves their purpose becomes unbearable. Maud, choosing not to stay completely hidden (her independent streak shines), meets the grieving mother of the drowned girl, which makes Maud even more contrite as she tries to fight her inner desire for love and the yucky feeling tricking someone brings to her. It's a twisted tale and you will cheer for Maud as she learns to make some difficult decisions on her own. I had another ending in mind that involved her brother but I was quite happy with how Schlitz chose to finish Maud's tale.
Read another review at Becky's Book Reviews.