Horace is the apprentice for Enoch Middleditch, a photographer in 1870s New York City. When hired by the wealthy Von Macht family to photograph them in mourning for their lost daughter, the unscrupulous Middleditch has Horace help him create a fake double-exposure ghost image of the dead daughter within the Von Macht portrait, in order to lure them into continuing to use his services. Soon, however, Horace realizes that more than a scam is at work, for it seems that a real ghost is showing up on his photographic plates.
This tale is equal parts ghost story, mystery, and history. The descriptions of the old photographic techniques are interesting, but it is the interactions between Horace and a servant girl, Pegg, which supply the heart of the story. As the secrets of the Von Macht family are unveiled, and the creepy atmosphere builds, I can see why Avi remains a beloved children’s author.