Clue in the Castle Tower

Written in 2011 by Sarah Masters Buckley, illustrated by Sergio Giovine


Samantha and Nellie are on a trip with Grandmary and Admiral Beemis (no longer "Grand-pere") to England and France. Grandmary says it's an important part of a young woman's education. While there, they are invited to stay with a friend of the Admiral's, Sir Charles. He lives in a castle with his twelve-year-old twin nephews (their parents died a while ago, and Sir Charles recently lost his wife). Sir Charles's goddaughter, Lady Frothingham, is also staying there, and very interested in the rumors of ghosts haunting the castle. Given the recent death of the woman who was likely her godmother, I'd say that's a little insensitive, but no one else seems to mind. As an newly-hired newspaper reporter, she spends a lot of time taking pictures to preserve the history and legend of the place. It was originally the property of Sir Reginald, who fought in the 1415 Battle of Agincourt, when the outnumber English forces defeated the French on St. Crispin's Day. He died shortly after the battle from his injuries, alone in his castle, which is why his ghost is rumored to still be there almost five hundred years later.

The girls also meet Mabel, a servant girl their age. Samantha is eager to engage her, but Nellie recognizes that Mabel is trying to keep her "place" in society. There are several other servants in the house, which makes for lots of suspects when Sir Charles discovers his first edition of Milton's Paradise Lost is missing. Further investigation reveals more than a dozen rare and valuable books are gone. In the aftermath of this, Sir Charles gets fed up with his nephews' unruliness and vows to send them back the boarding school they'd just been sent home from. But the boys got sent home on purpose, causing trouble whenever they could because of the bullying they faced from their peers. Samantha and Nellie think that if the four of them can find the books, the boys might get a reprieve. Grandmary points out that whoever stole the books knew their value, for only the most rare ones were taken and they were replaced with later edition (that is, less expensive) versions.

During the course of their investigations, the four learn that a ghostly figure has been seen at night, but it's just Mabel. She climbs one of the towers clandestinely to use a telescope to see signal lights her younger sisters back home, eight miles away, set out for her. She also tells how Sir Charles's wife knew about her night walks, and had a heart-to-heart with her the night before she died. She was also writing a letter that went unfinished, and is now missing. Samantha remembers that Grandmary's writing desk has a secret compartment, and the four take the deceased woman's desk apart searching for one. Sir Charles happens upon them in the process, and is furious. Fortunately, Grandmary and the Admiral calm him down and let the children explain themselves. Grandmary eyes the desk for a moment, then expertly pops open the secret compartment. Inside is the letter!

The letter reveals that Sir Charles's late wife sold the books herself. Since falling ill, she had realized that the most important parts of life are not things but family, and sold the books to leave enough money behind for Sir Charles and their nephews to enjoy the castle (the books had been primarily hers). So the twins don't have to go back to boarding school after all, and their tutor can keep his job. Mabel will be allowed one Sunday a month to visit her family, but Samantha and Nellie have a better idea: they've each been awarded twenty-five pounds for helping solve the mystery of what happened to the books. They give their reward to Mabel. With that money, her widowed mother can pay off their debts and Mabel will be able to go back to school and fulfill her dream of becoming a teacher.

Looking Back

In the early 1900s, a "Grand Tour" was a common part of a wealthy child's education. It consisted of going abroad to Europe, especially England, to study for several months. There children learned about the more class-structured societies, and got a wonderful first-hand look at Western history. By contrast, many lower-class Europeans were anxious to move to the United States, where they saw an opportunity for class advancement and the hope of better lives for their children.


This book is dedicated to George and Alison, the author's siblings.

I didn't realize that just over a hundred years ago, London was the world's biggest city.

Samantha and Nellie are now twelve years old.

It's winter in this book.

Samantha has a birth certificate despite being born in the 1800s, which shows how well-connected her family was. It wasn't until a little while after her birth that they became a priority for the government.

Grandmary has blue eyes.

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