The Strangers

Front Cover
Penguin, 2013 - Juvenile Fiction - 308 pages
2 Reviews
In the fourth volume of the New York Times bestselling Books of Elsewhere series, Olive thought she had uncovered all the house's secrets. She was wrong.

It's Halloween night when strangers come to Linden Street . . . and something absolutely vital to Olive goes missing. To what lengths will she go to get it back? Can she trust the strangers? Will she turn to a new and dangerous magic within the paintings of Elsewhere? Or will Olive put her faith in her own worst enemies to save the people and home she loves?

The stakes grow higher, the secrets more dangerous, and mystery and magic abound as Olive, the boys, and the magical cats uncover the true nature of the old stone house on Linden Street.

A must-read fantasy series for fans of Pseudonymous Bosch, Coraline, and Septimus Heap.

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - MillieHennessy - LibraryThing

Another solid book in the series about a girl whose house was previously owned by witches and contains living paintings. As I say every time, not enough illustrations. I love the style and they add to ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - CurrerBell - LibraryThing

This series continues getting better, and this installment introduces some new characters as well (a family of magicians, including one particularly lunk-headed member, regarding which no more to ... Read full review

Selected pages


Section 1
Section 2
Section 3
Section 4
Section 5
Section 6
Section 7
Section 8
Section 14
Section 15
Section 16
Section 17
Section 18
Section 19
Section 20
Section 21

Section 9
Section 10
Section 11
Section 12
Section 13
Section 22
Section 23
Section 24
Section 25

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About the author (2013)

Olive streaked toward the closest exit, a pair of doors that led not to the crowded front corridor, but to one of the school''s inner halls. She smacked through the doors, their heavy panels creaking open to let out the many running feet that came right behind her. Everyone shot out into the dark corridor, the cats racing protectively around Olive''s ankles, Morton reaching up to grab her gloved hand.

They turned a corner into an even darker hall. Beneath their footsteps and her own gasping breath, Olive could hear the gym doors creaking open, releas-ing a blast of screams and laughter before whooshing shut again.

. . . Leaving one more pair of footsteps to follow them into the darkness.


The Books of Elsewhere: Volume 1: The Shadows Jacqueline West

The Books of Elsewhere: Volume 2: Spellbound Jacqueline West

The Books of Elsewhere: Volume 3: The Second Spy Jacqueline West

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Roald Dahl

The Ghost''s Grave Peg Kehret

Gilda Joyce, Psychic Investigator Jennifer Allison

Matilda Roald Dahl

Savvy Ingrid Law

The Secret of Platform 13 Eva Ibbotson

an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.


HOUSES ARE GOOD at keeping secrets.

They shut out light. They muffle sounds.

Some have musty attics and murky basements. Some have closets stacked with sealed boxes and locked rooms where no one ever goes. A house can stand with its windows curtained and its doors shut for decades--even centuries--without revealing a hint of what is hidden inside.

The old stone house on Linden Street had kept its secrets for a very long time. For more than a hundred years, it had loomed at the crest of the hill, its towering black rooftops piercing a canopy of ancient trees. A pool of shadows surrounded the house, even on the sunniest days. Overgrown hedges enclosed its garden. Its deep-set windows were blurry and dark. Even in the height of summer, its stone walls exhaled a faint, grave-like chill, as though warmth and sunlight could never quite get in, and the darkness inside could never quite get out.

But as this particular summer dwindled into autumn, and the ancient trees dropped their leaves, and the nights grew long and cool and dark, the secrets hidden in the old stone house seemed to rise, at long last, to the surface.

On those lingering autumn evenings, dim red and purple lights began to glow from the house''s upper windows, where the silhouettes of watchful cats sat motionless on the sills. Cobwebs stretched across the porch. Headstones sprouted from the overgrown lawn, jutting up like crooked gray teeth. After sunset, when darkness covered the house, small, fiery faces flickered from the shadows around the front door.

Neighbors walking down Linden Street had always walked a bit faster as they passed the old stone house. Now they ran.

As for the people living inside those chilly stone walls: They were delighted to know that their house looked so frightening.

It was almost Halloween, after all.

* * *

Inside the old stone house were the three Dunwoodys: Alec Dunwoody, a mathematician; Alice Dunwoody, another mathematician; and their daughter, Olive Dunwoody, who was about as likely to become a mathematician as she was to become a three-toed tree sloth.

Throughout the twelve years of Olive''s life, the Dunwoodys had lived in many different towns, moving from apartment to apartment as Mr. and Mrs. Dunwoody moved from one mathematical job to another. When they had settled on Linden Street early that summer, Mr. and Mrs. Dunwoody were happy to think that at last they had a real house all to themselves.

But the truth was: They didn''t.

A trio of cats--Horatio, Leopold, and Harvey--had been keeping watch over the old stone house since long before the Dunwoodys arrived. Also hidden in its quiet rooms were a slew of sleepy neighbors, three stonemasons, a bouncy brown dog, several dancing girls in gauzy dresses, a café packed with Parisians, an out-of-practice orchestra, a castle porter, a woman in a bathtub, whole forests of trees, entire flocks of birds, and one small boy in a white nightshirt.

Mr. and Mrs. Dunwoody had no idea that they had so many roommates. But Olive knew. Thanks to a pair of spectacles she''d discovered in an upstairs drawer, Olive had learned the truth about the paintings that gleamed from the house''s cold stone walls.

Olive knew that Aldous McMartin, the house''s original owner, had been a very talented--very unusual--artist. Each painting he created was a living, changeless world, full of flowers that never wilted, and moons that never set, and people that could never die.

People like Aldous''s beloved granddaughter, Annabelle.

People like Aldous McMartin himself.

These painted worlds also made the perfect hiding place for everything Aldous wanted to conceal. Family spellbooks. Nosy neighbors. Dangerously curious almost-twelve-year-old girls who moved into your house and started unearthing all of its secrets.

Inside Aldous''s paintings, Olive had been chased by shadows, nearly drowned, and almost buried alive. She had survived each threat so far, but Olive didn''t know how much longer her good luck would hold. She''d already set the living image of Annabelle free, and worse still, she''d let Aldous''s final self-portrait slip through her fingers straight into his granddaughter''s cold, painted hands. As soon as Annabelle found a way to release him from the canvas, Olive''s luck would take a turn for the much, much worse.

Back in their college days, Mr. and Mrs. Dunwoody had invented a card game called 42--a more complicated version of 21--where each player tries to collect 42 points without going over. Sometimes, when Olive was really bored, her parents convinced her to play it with them, even though she never won. In her struggle with the McMartins, Olive felt as if she''d flipped one low card after another. Even if she didn''t exactly understand the mathematical rules of probability, Olive knew that a lucky streak couldn''t go on forever. Each good card brought a bad card closer. At any moment, the face of a chilly, smiling queen, or a stony, sunken-eyed king would stare up at her, and she would lose, yet again.

Compared to this very real fear, Halloween began to seem downright cheery.

So Olive had hung the cobwebs and put up the colored lights. She had cut out the cat silhouettes, modeling them on the house''s real (and much more talkative) cats. She had carved the jack-o''-lanterns with her parents, sitting on the porch in the October twilight. Mr. Dunwoody''s jack-o''-lantern was made up entirely of equilateral triangles. Mrs. Dunwoody''s jack-o''-lantern was made up of three scalene triangles and one complex quadrilateral. Olive''s jack-o''-lantern was made up of a jagged nose, two asymmetrical squinting eyes, and a crooked, snarling mouth, which disturbed her parents and the neighbors for entirely different reasons.

When she was finished decorating, Olive had stood at the curb looking up at her towering, terrifying house, and she''d felt a momentary zing of pride. For once, she might be the one getting to frighten someone else.

But being frightened wasn''t Olive''s real problem. Olive''s real problem was the feeling that--even with the cats and a few human friends, and all the painted people surrounding her--down at the very bottom, where the house''s worst secrets lived, she was completely alone.

Olive was the one who had unearthed the house''s secrets. She was the one who would bear the brunt of the McMartins'' anger, if--or when--they did come back. Sometimes Olive felt as though she were carrying the weight of the entire house, with its massive stone walls and its huge, dim rooms, inside of her worn purple backpack. It would have been nice to let someone else carry it for a while.

Weeks ago, after Annabelle had made off with Aldous''s portrait, Horatio had promised Olive that they might not have to face the McMartins all by themselves. Since then, however, he''d gotten suspiciously secretive about the matter.

"But what did you mean?" Olive demanded for what might have been the hundredth time, when she and the huge orange cat were alone together in the backyard. Olive had been raking leaves and throwing herself into the piles. The leaves crunched around her as she sat up and looked at Horatio, who was seated near the shriveled lilac hedge, his eyes fixed on the empty gray house just beyond. "You said, ''We may not have to fight alone.''"

"Did I?" said Horatio.

"Yes." Olive tugged a maple leaf out of her hair. "You did."

"Then I must have meant what I said," replied the cat.

Olive flopped back into the pile. "You''re keeping something from me."

"If I am," Horatio''s voice murmured through the crackling of the leaves, "you should trust that I am doing so for good reasons."

Olive tried to believe this. But as the autumn days blew by, and no new help appeared, and Horatio went on refusing to explain, Olive felt more alone than ever.

She was the only student in her art class who couldn''t touch a paintbrush without shivering. She was the only one on the school bus who spent the whole ride peering anxiously out of the windows, sure that she would catch sight of a pair of painted eyes staring back in. She was the only kid in sixth grade who wasn''t excitedly making plans for a Halloween costume, because she knew she wouldn''t be safe outdoors, at night, in the danger-cloaking darkness, without the walls of the old stone house standing solidly all around her.

If anyone ha

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