Confused, Flossie decides to visit her friend Ada, the Turnkey of Tower Hamlets cemetery. No sooner does she tell Ada what she saw, than the Turnkey of Brompton Cemetery shows up with at least 100 souls dressed in the uniform of the *Chelsea Pensioners. The men are there because of the Blitz, but are soon drawn into the mystery of the Nazi officer in the SS uniform carrying the mysterious round object.
On a quick trip to the Invalids' Cemetery in Berlin, Flossie learns from the Turnkey there that the officer is part of the Ahnenerbe. But what is that? Is the officer a German spy? How can that be if he's already dead? And why does he know who Flossie is?
The Turnkey of Highgate Cemetery is indeed a mystery...and historical fiction...and a ghost story. And yet it just didn't grab me until Flossie sees the SS officer on the dome of St. Paul's. A ghostly Nazi looking out at the bombing of London by the Luftwaffe reminded me that the the Nazi's, particularly Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS, had been interested in finding the "spiritual" roots of Germanic or Aryan heritage. That made this a definite game changer.
Flossie may only be a 12 year old protagonist, but she's smart and unrelenting in her pursuit of solving the mystery of the Nazi, especially after it becomes personal. But she's also compassionate and cares very much about the souls at rest in Highgate, as evidenced in the sub-storyline about Grace, a young girl injured in the Blitz who straddles life and death while trying to find her family. I could have lived without Grace's story, but I think it would have made a great sequel to this novel.
Highgate Cemetery is such a perfect setting for this story. It's creepy enough to make me never want to be there at night, but the spirits from all the London cemeteries are not the least bit scary:
|Highgate Cemetery, London|
I also thought that Rushby did a spot on job of presenting the Blitz in all its horror, and I liked Flossie's visits to the war rooms of the British and the Nazis, but I think one of my favorite things was the presence of the helpful Chelsea Pensioners in their tricorn hats and bright red coats. Which reminds me: The Turnkey of Highgate Cemetery was originally published in Britain, and there may be some bits that young American readers don't not know about. Some of them are covered in the Author's Note, but not the Pensioners (see note below).
All in all, however, The Turnkey of Highgate Cemetery is a great novel for anyone interested in WWII fiction, fans of ghost stories, and those who like a really good mystery.
This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was sent to me by the publisher, Candlewick Press