James lives with his dad in New York City. His best friends, his cousins Obie and Amanda, have recently moved with their parents to a house in the country a few hours north. James misses them, so when his aunt and uncle invite him to come and stay for the weekend, he’s thrilled. The three children like solving mysteries, and James is even more excited when Amanda writes that “something ominous is afoot!”
When James arrives, the household is in an uproar. A collie that belonged to the former owner, now deceased, is still on the property and has been impossible to catch. A dog catcher is there, and he also can’t get the dog, Maggie, and says the only way to remove her is to shoot her. The children won’t have that, so Maggie is left to roam free while James and his cousins explore the large old house and grounds, including outbuildings and a barn. Something odd does seem to be going on, things that should be there are missing, and Amanda swears she saw a mysterious “phantom” looking in the window one night. The barn is spooky and Maggie barks furiously when they go in, but nothing is seen.
Then a huge snowstorm hits, and the family and James are soon stuck in the house with no power or phone. Even Maggie is persuaded to come inside, and the youngest child, DeeDee, begins to make friends with her. Unused to the country, everyone works on figuring out how to survive the storm. What happens when its over is even more frightening.
I enjoyed rereading this, some of the plot turns were predictable, but the characters and setting are appealing. Recommended if you can find it.