Friday, March 21, 2014

Unraveling Isobel, by Eileen Cook

Haunted house on an island. There's a trope that never gets old. And even if it could, Eileen Cook would be able to shake it up. I went looking for another Cook novel after being pleasantly surprised by The Education of Hailey Kendrick (surprised because I don't usually enjoy realistic "I'm having problems with my social life" novels, but this one really worked for me). Unraveling Isobel sounded like it had the potential to be a fun ghost story (and I was in ghost mode after In the Shadow of Blackbirds and The Time of the Ghost).

The opening hooked me:
When the minister asked if anyone knew any reason why these two shouldn't be married, I should have said something. I could think of at least five reasons off the top of my head why my mom shouldn't have married Richard Wickham.
We've got a potentially evil stepfather ('cause he's a stepfather: they're always potentially evil), a good-looking but brooding stepbrother, and the mystery of what happened to the first wife and daughter. Plus the rumours about the big house they're moving into being haunted. And the west wing of the house is closed (cue Twilight Zone theme).  It's all there, and Cook does fun things with it.

She's a very funny writer. There are spooky bits, and a great spooky twist, but this is a lighthearted, laugh-out loud book. It also managed to deal sensitively with a number of issues, like having a disabled sister, what to think when you have a parent with a mental illness, whether to completely suppress your personality and join the cheerleading squad just to fit in. And whether it's okay to make out with your stepbrother. (Not such a serious issue, I suppose! But you never know: it might come up!)

Unraveling Isobel is Mayan Hot Chocolate: rich and creamy with a spicy kick (depending on where you get it, could be cinnamon, could be cayenne).

I am proud to say Eileen Cook is not only Canadian, but Vancouverian. For more Canadian books, John Mutford has a great blog and a challenge. This is my fourth Canadian book I've reviewed since last July 1. I've got to triple my efforts to reach 13 by June 30!


  1. Okay, yet another author I'm unfamiliar with, but this book sounds really good! I've got it on my list. And I'm also a big fan of IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS, which you mentioned--wasn't that good?!