Portraits of Celina by Sue Whiting

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Walker, 2013. ISBN 9781922077479.
(Age: 13+) Highly recommended. Bayley Anderson comes to live in an old family home near a small country town with her family after the death of her father. In her bedroom is a wooden chest that she becomes fascinated with and urged on by a voice discovers clothes belonging to Celina O'Malley who disappeared when she was 16 years old. She begins to wear the retro clothes and her resemblance to Celina opens up a dangerous mystery.
Whiting has written a delicious ghost story and a thrilling mystery. The hot summer weather, the grief that grips Bayley's family and the growing romance with Oliver, the boy who lives across the lake all combine to bring to life this story of revenge and crime.
The suspense was very gripping and the action kept me glued to the page. I spent many tense moments trying to work out what had happened to Celina and why she disappeared.
However characterisation was not omitted and as a reader, I felt that I knew Bayley very well. The angst of the older sister, Amelia, who bitterly fights with her mother, the fears of the little brother and the growing knowledge about Celina all built up a portrait of a family under stress, just barely holding on. Bayley's growing relationship with Oliver provided some relief from the family tensions and Celina's increasing demands for revenge. The ghost character of Celina became so real to me that I often forgot she was a ghost and I loved thinking about the cleverness of the title, Portraits of Celina, when I had finished the book.
There are some dark, exciting moments in this enthralling mystery and a clever twist at the end will thrill lovers of crime and ghost stories.
Pat Pledger