We Played With Fire
Publisher: Andersen Press
This is the true and bizarre story of the Fox sisters; a family of spiritual mediums who became rich and famous off the promise that they could speak to the dead.
15 year old Maggie has been accused of an awful crime, and her family have had to move to a new community to escape the scandal. Bored and frustrated in their cold, draughty new house, she and her younger sister Kate begin to play tricks on their parents – little knocks on the walls and scratches on the floorboards to make them think the house is haunted. The trick works, and their new neighbours become convinced Maggie and Kate are mediums.
One by one, more and more people fall for their hoax, desperate to communicate with deceased loved ones or fascinated by the spectacle of spiritualism. Their claim to be able to talk to ghosts brings them fame and fortune; but then the ghosts begin to talk back. Maggie must face her past if she is to truly understand who, or what, she has made contact with.
This is a chilling story for older readers, subtle and creeping with echoes of Shirley Jackson. Maggie is a wonderful character, impulsive and flawed but hugely relatable, and her slow realisation that she might be in over her head whilst nobody believes her is heartbreakingly written. Whilst none of the imagery or descriptions are ever outright horrifying, it’s the tiny details – a misplaced wine bottle on Maggie’s table, a knocked-over candlestick, a shadow in the hallway – that make it a deliciously spooky tale, and one to leave the reader sleeping with the lights on.