The Turnkey of Highgate Cemetery by Allison Rushby
Format: ARC Paperback
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Number of pages: 236
Publishing: July 24th, 2018
Source: ARC received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review
Opening Line: "Flossie lowered the book she was reading as she felt the girl awaken from rest and leave her grave."
The Turnkey of Highgate Cemetery takes place during World War II at the height of the Germans nightly aerial attacks in London. Twelve-year-old Flossie Birdwhistle is the ghost of a girl who was buried at Highgate Cemetery. The Cemetery makes up part of a network of cemeteries built on the outskirts of London during the 1800's referred to as the Magnificent Seven, each housing the interred with its own spiritual advisor and Turnkey. Just recently the deceased of Highgate voted Flossie to become their Turnkey, she will stay "awake" and assist everyone else with staying happily at rest. While making her nightly rounds to St. Pauls Cathedral, she observes a man wearing a Nazi soldiers uniform holding a mysterious object. Flossie believes he's connected to the twilight or spirit world. What makes his presence so odd is that the object he is carrying appears to be from the outside world, which shouldn't exist in both the living and in the spirit world, he doesn't have a spiritual guide or Turnkey with him and he's clearly from a foreign country. Concerned for her beloved cemetery, Flossie enlists the help of the nearby Turnkeys and travels to Germany to piece together what the man's intentions are. It will take all their combined efforts to stop his sinister plans.
At first glance, I thought The Turnkey of Highgate Cemetery would be similar to something like The Graveyard Book, with the main character living around a cemetery. While Flossie and her friends are ghosts there isn't anything really spooky about this book, so it's not a very fair comparison. Instead, we have an interesting mix of historical details from World War II, the paranormal and some of the potential horrible outcomes that wars can cause. Flossie clearly loves her cemetery, and even though she sometimes feels she wasn't the best pick for the job, she does take steps to defend it against the Nazi soldier trying to destroy it. She does take her job as Turnkey very seriously, especially when the interred become restless. Like little Amelia who visits Flossie because she has been searching for the doll in her "memento mori" or picture of herself after her death, without a second thought Flossie finds a replacement that helps Amelia to return to rest. Flossie's past is slowly revealed as the circumstances of her death and that of her father's become clear. Rushby created very specific rules for her world, how a Turnkey can warp from place to place, how they can copy an object from the real world into the spirit world and how the interred can only leave the cemetery if they're carried outside the gates. The story also examines some of the Nazi's practices during World War II, how they performed archaeological digs searching for the Ark of the Covenant, and how there was a group of individuals called the Ahnenerbe examining the racial heritage of Germans for Hitler. Overall, a very enjoyable ghost story set during World War II and enough twists and danger to keep things entertaining.