Written in 2005 by Sarah Masters Buckley, illustrated by Jean-Paul Tibbles
As Gard and Cornelia have now adopted FOUR girls, they need to expand their home. Because of the construction, the family is going to live at a hotel for a couple weeks, the Ravenscourt. Gard will have to be away for the first week, travelling on business. The owner is happy to see them, as business hasn't been as brisk as he expected.. Nellie is immediately suspicious of him: he's a slumlord in her old neighborhood, and an old woman, who blamed her infant grandson's death on his shoddy apartments, cursed him. Some of the hotel employees know about the curse too, and think it's responsible for the hotel's lack of business and other happenings, ranging from faulty furnaces to the death of an employee who fell down an elevator shaft.
At first, Samantha dismisses the superstitious worries as nonsense. But the bad luck is piling up: Bridget and Jenny's school is closed due to a chicken pox outbreak and they come down with the disease, Samantha and Nellie realize they're technically on the thirteenth floor (it's labelled the fourteenth; number thirteen was skipped). And someone painted the number 13 in blood-red numbers on their floor. Nellie worries that it was something but Samantha is still looking for a logical solution. Cornelia is acting strange, too; very cautious of being around the girls, to the point that she leaves to stay with her mother. The owner's daughter, Eloise, thinks someone is set on destroying her father's reputation. She is unaware of the condition of his apartments in Nellie's old neighborhood. Eloise doesn't want to believe it, but a trip to the building proves that Nellie was telling the truth. Eloise takes the shock of the news very well, consulting Nellie for what should be done to help the tenants (Eloise is an adult). And on the way back to the hotel, Nellie and Samantha see Cornelia back at the house.
Nellie is worried that Cornelia and Gard have decided four girls are too many to care for and that the curse is responsible for this. Samantha tries to reassure her that her aunt and uncle wouldn't abandon them, and that someone at the hotel must be behind the strange occurrences. After an elevator crashes too close to when Jenny and Bridget were going to be riding in it, Samantha starts to wonder if the building really is cursed. But then she overhears people discussing how they planned several of the mishaps, and after some detective work, she and Nellie discover--along with an undercover police officer--that the hotel owner's rival has been paying one of the employees to stage little accidents ever since the elevator death. The rival will have to pay a substantial fine, which Eloise assures Nellie will go toward renovating the apartments.
There's still one mystery: why did Cornelia leave and lie about staying with her mother? It turns that she didn't know whether she'd had chicken pox and her mother couldn't remember. Chicken pox is more serious when an adult catches it...especially a pregnant woman. Gard and Cornelia are expecting a baby in the spring!
In Samantha's time, ghost stories were very popular. People enjoyed being scared by performances of apparitions projected on stages, and seances were common pastimes. The Looking Back section mentions the Fox sisters, the famous duo who successfully faked a connection with the spirit world.
This book is dedicated to J. J.
It's really interesting to read about all the work that servants do for Samantha's family. While it would certainly be nice to have help like that sometimes, I'd feel too awkward letting someone do everything for me.
One character mentions that Cornelia is still giving speeches about women's suffrage.
Telephone is shortened as 'phone, with the apostrophe preceding it.
This mystery was published a year before The Stolen Sapphire, but since there's no mention of a baby or pregnancy in the later book, I placed this one chronologically second.