The Ghost in the Mirror
By John Bellairs and Brad Strickland
The Ghost in the Mirror is the fourth book in the Lewis Barnavelt series, although like the previous book in the series, The Letter, the Witch, and the Ring, the main character is Rose Rita, who is once again on vacation with Mrs. Zimmermann. This is also the first of the books to be completed and published after John Bellairs' death.
Rose Rita is feeling abandoned yet again, as Lewis and Jonathan are off exploring Europe for the summer. Rose Rita had been invited, but had to cancel at the last minute due to her breaking a leg. Now she is on the mend, and despite having Mrs. Zimmermann to hang out with she is feeling a bit lonely.
Mrs. Zimmermann isn't particularly good company either. Since losing her magic in The Figure in the Shadows she is becoming more and more distracted and distant. Finally, Mrs. Zimmermann decides that she is going to visit the town where her old mentor lived, in hopes that she can find some way to restore her magic -- and, naturally, Rose Rita convinces her to let her come along. But soon they find themselves unexpectedly whisked away more than 100 years into the past, stuck in Pennsylvania Dutch country in the middle of a hard winter. They must save the locals from the grasp of an evil warlock before they can return to the task of recovering Mrs. Zimmermann's magic, and, hopefully, finding their way back home.
The majority of this book is very much in tune with the earlier books of this series, although it is a little less introspective with less character development. It is a very enjoyable read, and just as spooky as the earlier books. I'm not certain how much was completed by Bellairs before he died, but at about chapter 10, about 50 pages from the end of the book, the writing quality goes into decline, in plot advancement, in setting, and in dialog. I found the clumsy plot revelations to be the most distracting, although there is no aspect of the last few chapters that is completely unaffected.
Overall, this book is worth reading despite the weakness of the last few chapters. The majority of the book is exactly what one would expect of Bellairs, and the ending does come back to what we expect of a Bellairs book. And, quite frankly, at no point does the writing quality fall below what most of us expect from a standard children's novel; it is only in comparison to Bellairs earlier works that it is particularly disappointing.
Obviously, you should not read this book until you have read the first Lewis Barnavelt book, The House with the Clock in its Walls. The next book in this series is The Vengeance of the Witch-finder, also co-written by Brad Strickland.