In the basement of the Biltmore Estate in Ashville, North Carolina, “Serafina opened her eyes and scanned the darkened workshop, looking for any rats stupid enough to come into her territory while she slept,” and so begins a strange story.
Robert Beatty in Serafina and the Black Cloak weaves a tale that keeps the reader wavering between belief and unbelief that mystical forces control residents of a mansion known for its Southern charm. But then, what Southern mansion worthy of its salt doesn’t have a bit of supernatural history? Denials abound, along with advocates who vouch for eerie occurrences.
The question becomes personal for Serafina who has her own questions from her residence with her father in the basement. Who is her mother? How did she come to live here? Why can she never show herself to the true residents? How did she acquire the skill of catching rats in the dark that has led her father to bestow on her the title of Biltmore Estate’s C. R. C (Chief Rat Catcher)?
Serafina’s real challenge comes after she witnesses a man whose black cloak seems to swallow up a little girl and children begin to go missing. Her skills, whether from her mysterious background or her practice of catching rats in the dark, bring her out of her safe basement haven on a hair-raising adventure to solve the mystery.
Middle-graders and adults who like to teeter on the edge of disbelief will enjoy the book. Extra pleasure awaits those who are familiar with Southern mansions, especially the Biltmore Estate.