Clara is a quiet girl at the turn of the century. She and her mother live in the crumbling Glendoveer mansion taking care of Mrs. Glendoveer. Clara has a heart condition which forces her to stay quiet and inside all the time. She can’t go to school or play with other children. It is just her, her mother, the cook Ruby and Mrs. Glendoveer, and of course the five birds in the aviary in the garden. Then Mrs. Glendoveer dies and they are left with the house and birds to take care. Clara discovers the tragedy of the Glendoveer family as the birds start talking to her. Slowly the entire story comes out about the kidnapping and deaths of the five oldest Glendoveers and the missing baby Elliot. How are the birds connected to the Glendoveer’s story and how does Clara solve the mystery?
This book is a slower read, but it was interesting. It is all about mystery and magic and finding out what you are capable of. I really enjoyed Clara’s growth throughout the story. She starts out as such a meek little thing, never questioning anything, always obeying her mother, doing nothing on her own. But by the end she is the heroine of the story, she has solved the mystery, brought the kidnappers and murders to light and reunited her family. I also enjoyed her friendship with the new neighbor Daphne Aspinal. I loved how they became friends despite their circumstances and how they worked together to solve the mystery. This is a book about family and friendships. Sure there is a bit of magic and mystery but the family comes first.
As much as I enjoyed the book there were things that I didn’t quite like. One thing was that there were several letters printed in the book in a cursive font. It was very difficult to read and they were very important for the plot of the book. The second thing that did turn me off a bit was how predictable and a bit weak parts of the plot were. Clara’s heart condition was questionable from the start yet she didn’t question it. It seemed so strange that her mother forced her to stay hidden away; I still didn’t buy it even after she explained her reasons. I also thought the magic was a bit hokey and unexplained. We were just supposed to take it on faith that the Great Glendoveer could do what he did. I wish a little more time would have been spent on that part of the story because it really did seem like it was just thrown in to make things work. Even with its problems this was still an enjoyable book. Maybe not one everyone will enjoy but fans of historical mysteries will like it.