This book is as fun-filled, racy and unputdownable as Ibbotson’s other books, Which Witch, The Great Ghost Rescue, The Secret of Platform 13 and The Haunting of Hiram.
Dial-A-Ghost is about a 10-year-old orphan called Oliver Smith. One fine day, Oliver discovers that he has suddenly inherited a grand old mansion. Oliver is happy at the London orphanage, but he soon finds himself living in a spooky, creaky tower bedroom in Helton Hall, under the care of his two calculating cousins, the Snodde-Brittles. They are next in line to inherit the family mansion if something should happen to Oliver. They offer to help him settle into his new home.
In fact their motive is actually blood-curdling: they plan to rent scary ghosts from the Dial-a-Ghost Agency in the hope of frightening the boy to death and inheriting the mansion. The ladies who run the agency are delighted because they can now find a home for the Wilkinson family of five ghosts (who died all at once when a bomb hit their house in World War II) and the Shriekers, a pair of maimed and foul-smelling aristocrats who, after losing their only child, aim to rid the world of as many living youngsters as possible.
Due to a mix-up, the ghosts wind up in the wrong homes. The gruesome spectres intended for Helton Hall accidentally end up at a convent, while the gentle family of ghosts that wind up in Oliver’s home suit him just fine, much to his evil cousins’ dismay. The comedy of errors becomes more complicated as murderous plots are foiled, ghost busters are hired and the identity of the Shriekers’ long-lost daughter is uncovered.