A Thief in the House of Memory by Tim Wynne-Jones
Declan Steeple’s got it pretty good–good grades, a wealthy (if eccentric) father, an adoring little sister and good-natured stepmother, good friends, and a plan to become an architect. Then he hitch-hikes home one day with the guy driving the water truck, and sets a convoluted, twisted string of events into motion. Yeah, here’s where the summary starts to sound cliched and predictable, but let me assure you right now that no-one gets kidnapped or abused and Declan makes it home safe and sound. It all comes back to his mother, Lindy, who left when he was ten, and the ancestral family home. The large house has stood empty, maintained like a museum or shrine, since Declan’s father remarried. There’s a death, a court case, but self-identity and a complex knot of imperfect but strong family ties is at the heart of it all.
Tim Wynne Jones doesn’t disappoint–the characters are a rich and varied bunch, and the adults have as much depth as the teens. Declan’s friends, though they’re all secondary and background characters, are a wonderfully, realistically quirky bunch of “smart kids,” and there’s a truly charming bit of romance going on, too. There are definite similarities to some of Wynne Jone’s other books–especially The Boy in the Burning House and Stephen Fair–but he’s not merely retreading new ground. As always, a treat to read, and a fine balance of light and dark.