It has been six years since sixteen-year-old Dec's free-spirited mother, Lindy, disappeared. Dec feels so trapped in the present that he has avoided examining his past. But when an intruder dies in the museum-like family home, the man's death sends forth tremors that reawaken forgotten memories. Suddenly Dec is flooded with visions of his mother so tangible it's hard to believe they're not real.
At least Dec has his best friend -- gifted, funny Ezra -- to help him sort out what's real and what isn't. But as Dec's dream visions of his mother turn into nightmares, Ezra announces he's going away, leaving Dec haunted by questions that must be answered. What did happen to his mother? And who really is the thief in the house of memory?
Becoming absorbed in this book is like entering a dream. From first chapter to last, Wynne-Jones (The Boy in the Burning House) masterfully evokes the surreal quality of faded memories enhanced or distorted by the imagination. At age 16, Dec Steeple can only remember bits and pieces of the years before his rebellious-minded mother abandoned the family when he was 10. Yet all of the artifacts of Dec's childhood are still carefully preserved in the now empty family estate, a mansion within walking distance of the modern house where Dec now lives with his father, his father's girlfriend, Birdie (also once his mother's best friend), and Dec's little sister, Sunny. Dec's search to uncover the circumstances of his mother's sudden departure draws him back to the mansion, where on one occasion, he discovers a dead man allegedly a thief who he later learns dated Dec's mother in high school. Dec's quest to know the truth grows increasingly urgent. Feeling his mother's presence by his side, he pushes his way through layers of lies and deception. Readers will be just as consumed as the hero is in his search for answers. Offering a plot, setting and characters that are equally alluring, this novel is part mystery and part psychological study of how the past affects the present. Ages 12-up.