The Winterhouse Mysteries: Winterhouse, Book 3

Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
The Winterhouse Mysteries: Winterhouse, Book 3 Book Poster Image
Last spooky vacation at Winterhouse is well worth the visit.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Kids solve puzzles with anagrams (words jumbled to make new words), palindromes (words or phrases spelled the same backward and forward), and stereograms (words or phrases hidden in a picture that reveal themselves when you relax your eyes). Mentions of many curiosities like the camera obscura rebuilt in the last book and the Antikythera mechanism, an ancient computer. Musicians visiting Winterhouse include a Tuvan throat singer and a woman playing the lithophone, a xylophone made of stones.

Positive Messages

Like the first two books, there's an element of good vs. evil. The temptation of great power leads to evil. Caring relationships with friends and family lead to the good path. Norbridge says to Elizabeth, "We never know the influence we might have on other people simply by showing them some kindness, by trying to remain in good spirits as best we can. By not returning hatred with hatred."

Positive Role Models & Representations

More than in the last two books, Elizabeth confides in her grandfather about the mysterious happenings at Winterhouse. When she acts impulsively, she also owns up to it and apologizes. She chooses mercy over vengeance and what's right over what can make her more powerful. Some diversity in the characters: Elizabeth is White. Her best friend Freddy is half-Mexican and the librarian is from Uganda. In this book, an adventurer is half-British, half-Ugandan.


An elderly person dies and is mourned. A vengeful ghost haunts Winterhouse. A character passes out. Mentions of the loss of Elizabeth's family in a car wreck when she was young and how other members of her extended family died or went missing. Talk of sinister magic that stripped away the health and sanity of its victims.


A peck on the cheek.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Winterhouse Mysteries is the final book in a trilogy set in a remote fancy hotel. Twelve-year-old Elizabeth lives with her grandfather, the hotel's owner, and is becoming more acquainted with the oddities of her magically gifted family that have run Winterhouse for generations. Like the first two books, there are some creepy moments, including one with a vengeful ghost, a parrot that repeats her name at random, and unexplained earthquakes. One elderly character dies and is mourned, and there are mentions of how Elizabeth's parents died in a car crash when she was young. Also similar to the other books, the mystery focuses on puzzles and code-breaking. You'll learn some cool palindromes and anagrams and cross your eyes trying to figure out a few stereograms. Elizabeth has grown as a character since the series began. Here she confides in her grandfather more rather than keeping so many secrets. She also chooses mercy over vengeance and what's right over what can make her more powerful. Her grandfather explains to Elizabeth why he chooses to be kind, even when it's difficult.

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What's the story?

In THE WINTERHOUSE MYSTERIES, Elizabeth can't wait for spring break. Her friend Freddy is coming to stay at Winterhouse again, and her grandfather Norbridge has another exciting project for them. He pulls out boxes from storage that belonged to his grandfather and tells them to piece together a tour and history for the guests of Winterhouse. Right away there are curiosities to be found -- strange codes on the lids of the boxes and old letters addressed to Norbridge's mother concerning Norbridge's wayward sister, Gracella. Elizabeth is especially curious about the letter, and everything else they've found out about Gracella since she was entombed below Winterhouse a few months before. Elizabeth is worried she's not really gone from Winterhouse. Clues abound around Winterhouse that something, at least, is terribly off. There's a missing rare book, a cabin fire, regular rumblings under the hotel, squabbling among the usually pleasant guests, and the library parrot shouts "Gracella, Gracella, Gracella" when Elizabeth is around.

Is it any good?

This delightful, puzzle-filled, and slightly spooky mystery series finale does what all books set in fantastic places do: makes you sad to leave, even if the ending satisfies. And the ending does satisfy, though The Winterhouse Mysteries tries to tie up every loose end a little too neatly. It's hard not to be jealous of Elizabeth for getting to live at a hotel in her own room, with a massive library down the hall, a candy factory downstairs, and unique entertainment in the dining hall every night. Kids will want to look up Tuvan throat singing and what a lithophone sounds like. They will also enjoy solving more word puzzles with Elizabeth and her friend, Freddy.

The mystery builds well, thanks to a big cast of quirky characters who could all be involved in trying to help the resident vengeful ghost. Lots of little things add up: a missing book, rumblings in the dining room, and a parrot who knows just when to shout the ghost's name to give you the willies. And why on earth did Elizabeth steal that puzzle piece? All is revealed in the end. It's hard to say good-bye to Winterhouse and its mysteries, but it was a magical vacation while it lasted.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the scary moments in The Winterhouse Mysteries. Do you like ghost stories and unexplained happenings? Do you like this book more for the scares or the word puzzles?

  • Are you better at solving word puzzles after reading this series? Do you like reading stories where you participate in solving the mysteries?

  • What other books that you read require you to solve a mystery or figure something out along with the characters? What other kinds of media require active participation like this?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love mystery

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