April 14, 2020

The Mystery of the Black Hollow Lane (Order of Black Hollow Lane, Book 1)

Written by Julia Nobel
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
320 pp.
Ages 8-14

For a parenting guru, Emmy Willick’s mom seems to relinquish much of her responsibilities, telling her daughter that she always knows what’s best for her (does she?) when sending her an English boarding school, Wellsworth.  But before Emmy heads out, she uncovers a metal box with 12 medallions with a note from her father, Thomas Allyn, who’d left when Emmy was three. As her parents met in England, Emmy is determined to use the opportunity at Wellsworth to learn as much about him as she can.

At Wellsworth, she meets Lola Boyd, her housemistress’s daughter, and Jack Galt with whom she becomes fast friends. Because she has had no schooling in Latin, she is encouraged by Madam Boyd to join the Latin Society, a club headed by Master Larraby.  When the trio begin to study the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and learn that Wellsworth Hall used to be Blacehol Abbey, Emmy discovers a secret society called the Order of Black Hollow Lane using the same symbol as the Latin Society, a skull with a cross and dagger. But Jack tries to dissuade her against learning about the Order to which his father and older brothers, as well as Lola’s nasty cousin Brynn, belong and which Jack believes is dangerous.

After being slipped several old messages ostensibly from the files of Thomas Allyn, Emmy realizes that her father, the school and the Order of Black Hollow Lane are all tied together. But what Emmy doesn’t know is how and why.

Boarding schools are a favourite location to set mysteries, just as English countryside villages are home to so many cozies. Schools like Wellsworth are ripe with a myriad of characters, good and bad and some misunderstood, from among their student and adult populations. There are roomies, classmates, teachers, administrators, custodians and more in these enclaves of apparent decorum. Their relationships are a tangled web of support, bullying, distrust, affection and malevolence. For Emmy, whose self-absorbed mother loves to dictate but not engage and without a father present in her life, Wellsworth offers her an opportunity to find family. She may be driven to find her father and have him become part of her life, if she can, but with Lola and Jack and a gaggle of other characters who may be of assistance in their own ways, Emmy is able to make a new life and solve a mystery or two.


Tomorrow I review The Secret of White Stone Gate, Book 2 in the Order of Black Hollow Lane series.


  1. I know someone who will love this series. Thanks.

    1. I think a lot of young readers will enjoy it. It's like Harry Potter without the magic. The kids are the heroes.