I had gotten a copy of The Night Gardener from a neighboring library last year, but I didn’t get a chance to read it before it had to be returned. My town library acquired the audiobook version, so I added it to my pile. It’s often easier for me to listen to audiobooks because I can listen while I’m driving or straightening up the house.
The story begins with young orphans Molly and Kip traveling to their new home. They have been hired by the Windsor family to work as housekeeper and stableboy/gardener. Well, to be specific, they are hired by Mr. Windsor, who fails to inform his wife. When the siblings arrive, they are almost turned away by Constance Windsor, who doesn’t want anyone in their house. This sense of confusion and the pallid appearance of Constance and her children establishes an overwhelming feeling of dread.
As Molly and Kip begin to settle into their new routines, they quickly realize that something is not right. They were warned about the house and its inhabitants by an old peddler woman, and it’s generally known that something very bad happened at the house when Mr. Windsor was a boy. Almost immediately, strange things begin to happen. Molly discovers an old hat that doesn’t belong to anyone in the house, and there is dirt on the floor that she just cleaned. At the center of the mystery is the massive tree in the yard that chokes out everything in the yard.
The Night Gardener is ostensibly a children’s book, but I was legitimately scared several times during the course of the story. Auxier has crafted a masterful ghost story, set in 19th century England. I have to add that narrator Beverley A. Crick gave a masterful performance; uncanny events are even more unsettling when read in a soothing Irish lilt.
I would absolutely recommend The Night Gardener. I’ve seen this book shelved in both the children’s and the young adult section. It’s a scary story, but it’s not particularly violent or explicit. That’s part of what makes The Night Gardener such a good book: most of the scary events come from psychological terror and a sense of the unknown rather than gotcha moments or blood soaked scenes. This is a wonderfully written story. Not only am I going to look into getting my own copy of the book, but I’m also going to read Auxier’s other book Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes before the sequel to that book comes out early next year.