This is the final installment in the Books of Elsewhere series as Olive Dunwoody and her parents continue to live in a centuries-old gray mansion with strange murals painted by Aldous McMartin, the former owner.
Using special spectacles, Olive is able to see within the frames where real people and settings are encased. In one painting titled “Still Life,” Olive discovers the purpose behind the mural, which is really a place called Elsewhere: “Aldous created a world of his own. A world where nothing would age, or get sick, or die.”
But Aldous’ presence still lurks through the centuries, threatening Olive’s investigation into Elsewhere itself.
The entire series is laced with interesting characters: Olive’s distracted parents, whose obsession with math leaves her on her own; the three cats that protect the house; and Rutherford, a next-door neighbor who is able to read Olive’s mind.
The ethereal characters from the paintings portray a mysterious mood as new discoveries are made, especially the appearance of Aldous’ wife, who has been locked in one painting against her will.
When a fire destroys all the paintings, leaving empty frames throughout the mansion, Olive has to find a way to save the townsfolk who had been hidden away for generations.
Author Jacqueline West’s crisp dialogue and rapid-fire adventures are accompanied by occasional black-and-white drawings by Poly Bernatene that add a spooky dimension to the story.
“Still Life” contains no swearing, and the action and descriptions of violence are age appropriate.
Each of the five volumes in the Books of Elsewhere series could stand alone, but the complex issues as well as the growth and maturity of Olive from an 11-year-old to a strong, self-willed middle school student will best be appreciated by reading the five books in order.