In award-winning author Virginia Hamilton's sequel to The House of Dies Drear, she continues the story of the long-dead abolitionist, Dies Drear, and the African-American family, the Smalls, who live in his former house. At the center of the story is young Thomas Small, who seeks to protect the 100-year-old treasure hidden in caverns that were once part of the Underground Railroad underneath Drear House. Thomas' neighbor, a young girl named Pesty Darrow, helps him uncover the secrets of Drear House, and in doing so, goes behind the backs of her greedy father and older brothers.
In the meantime, Pesty's adoptive mother, Mrs. Darrow, walks in a mentally-ill stupor through the passageways between Drear House and her own, and Thomas' father, a history professor at the local college, is trying to catalogue the stupendous treasure before the Darrow men can steal it. In this intriguing, multi-layered story of secrets, Hamilton sensitively tackles themes of morality, adoptive families, old age, and mental illness. Both adults and children face difficult choices as they try to balance friendship and family ties, while at the same time dealing with questions of loyalty, honesty, and justice.
Hidden treasure, ghosts, Indian legends, and secret passageways turn up on every page of Hamilton's tension-filled debate over the preservation of history versus the accumulation of wealth. Conflicting emotions exist in nearly all the characters, and readers will identify with their struggle to figure out right from wrong. In addition, readers will find in this story an excellent opportunity to make judgements, inferences, and predictions regarding the turns and twists of this compelling story.