Sounds a little redundant, doesn’t it?
Mysteries were always one of my favorite types of books to read, and mysteries that took place in a location I could recognize and had visited? Those were the best! The Mystery of the Witches’ Bridge , by Barbee Oliver Carleton, was a mystery that took place in Massachusetts… Or maybe Maine. Actually, it’s not really clear exactly where the book takes place, but it’s definitely somewhere along coastal New England. There are salt marshes, ancestors accused of being witches, a longstanding feud between the Pride and the Bishop families, and the nearby towns of York and Pride’s Point. Boston is within an afternoon drive, so it’s definitely set somewhere between Maine and Massachusetts!
* * *
Dan Pride has come to Pride’s Point to live with his Uncle Julian after the death of his parents in London. Everything about his new home is strange to him…from the musty old mansion to the salty sea air to Caliban, Uncle Julian’s massive unfriendly dog.
Mrs. Corey, the housekeeper, and Billy Ben, the handyman, try to help Dan understand his new home by telling him the stories surrounding the Pride family. There’s the cursed ancestor, accused of being a witch. The Fiddler, whose violin music can be heard when something is threatening the family, and the feud with the Bishops, another local family. All the stories do though, is make everything feel stranger to Dan.
When Dan meets another boy named Pip and his twin sister Gilly in town, he thinks things are looking up. When he hears the mysterious music floating over the marsh one night, he’s hopeful that his new friends can help him figure out what’s going on. But then his uncle meets Pip, and Dan is in big trouble. Pip, it turns out, is actually Philip Bishop, and suddenly Dan is forbidden from seeing him.
Can Dan convince Uncle Julian that Pip is not his enemy? Can the boys work together to solve the mystery of the violin music? Can they find the missing money that restarted the feud between the Bishops and the Prides? Dan doesn’t know, but if he’s going to make Pride’s Point his new home, he has to try.
* * *
I used to read and re-read this book when I was a kid. The descriptions of the tangy salt marsh, the strange lights in the fog, the mysterious mansion with violin music wafting through the night…it filled me with delicious shivers. As he follows the clues to unravel the mystery of his new home, Dan’s struggle to become a part of this new world, and the danger he finds himself in while he’s learning who he can trust and what is important to him is both thrilling and heartwarming.
My fifth grade teacher read the first half of this book to us after lunch. (She never finished any of the books she read, so I always took them out of the library and read them before she even got through the second installment.) As I remember, the class was enthralled, and I ended up relating the rest of the book to many of the non-readers. Even though it was written over 40 years ago (in 1967), it doesn’t feel dated at all. It’s definitely a book that fourth, fifth and even sixth grade students will enjoy. I know I did!