Welcome to the Reader's Den selection for the month of February 2012: The Servants by M.M. Smith. Michael Marshall Smith is generally known for his sci-fi and mystery novels. The Servants — a subtle little ghost story and coming-of-age novel — is a departure from this genre.
Mark, a troubled pre-teen, has had to relocate from his familiar London to the seaside town of Brighton, in bleak winter. Mark's mother is getting progressively sicker and Mark does not get along with his new stepfather, David. He misses his father and has very little contact with him. Then he meets, and is befriended by, an old woman who rents the basement apartment of the old house his stepfather owns.
His quiet little teatimes with her become something else when he discovers a warren of rooms leading into the heart of the basement, which used to be the servant's domain — the kitchen, the cellar, the pantry, the servants' hall, and their bedrooms — dusty and unused for ages. However, as Mark ventures into the servant's quarters on his own, time after time, he discovers another era, a time when the smooth running of the house depended on the staff in the basement. He travels back in time and learns to deal with his own problematic present from the servants. Atmospheric, eerie and poignant, I hope you will join me in reading and discussing The Servants.