The Whispering House, by Rebecca Wade (Katherine Tegen Books, 2012, middle grade), that we could have been driving through the Sahara Desert, for all I knew. And when I arrived at work (having mercifully finished reading just before my stop), I was still so caught up in the story that, instead of saying "Hello" politely to my co-worker, I said Oh my gosh your daughter likes ghost stories doesn't she this one is excellent (with wavy motions of the book).
Here's what happens in it:
Hannah (likable girl, good at art) moves temporarily into old house of reduced rent with locked room.
She begins to dream--creepy, fairytale like dreams that don't seem like nightmares till she wakes up.
Her friend Sam (her partner in adventure) opens the locked room. And the blocked way up to the attic. In the attic is one of the most creepy, spooky dolls ever.
It belonged to Maisie, a little girl who died in the house in the late 19th century.
And Maisie turns out to be rather desperate for attention....and oh my gosh it is so spooky as the whole house deteriorates around Hannah and things get really creepy and how can Hannah focus on her exams when her mind is full of questions like--How did Maisie die? Was she murdered? Is the doll cursed? Why is the house deteriorating? EEKKK!
The pacing is spot on, the mystery is satisfyingly twisty, and it gripped me at pretty much the highest level of book grip there is. A fine supporting cast of reasonable adults adds value. Plus extra bonus points for information about Napoleon's death (you never know when that will come in useful).
So, like I said up at the top--if you have a sixth through eight grader who wants a good ghost story that isn't gory but is tremendously creepy, this is a good one. Or heck, if you want a good girl in old haunted house story for yourself, go for it. (I think the cover will winnow its audience very well indeed--those who find the ghost girl too young looking, or too girl looking, will not be the right readers).
Those who are put off by witchcraft (which I, myself, am not) might be disturbed by the inclusion of a not-unsympathetic Wiccan character, but she's nicely balanced by the Bishop, who's tremendously sympathetic.
This is a sequel of sorts to The Theft and the Miracle, which tells of Hannah and Sam's previous adventure, and which is now on my wish list. The events of that story are alluded too, but it's not at all necessary to have read it before this one.
A final musing--Rebecca Wade is English, and this was published at the same time in the UK and the US. At last one change (chips to fries) was made (edited to add--round-about changed to merry-go-round. Sigh). But the more familiar one is with both versions of English, the harder it is to spot things that are particular to one or the other. If you're going to make changes (and surely they mostly unnecessary these days) you need translators who are the opposite of fluent in the other English.... (edited to add: I wish publishers wouldn't bother. Keep local color! Keep things interesting, instead of trying to homogenize the language!)