Fourteen year-old Penelope Ibbetson is at an archeological dig in Northumberland with her family. Her self absorbed writer father has married an American archeologist. Penelope and her older brother Martin gain three step-siblings, 12-year-old twins, Mark and Luke, and 8-year-old Louisa. Martin accompanies Valerie, their new stepmother, to work on the dig, while Penelope is left to deal with the tensions at home. It's a struggle for the private Pennie to adjust to the boisterous boys, and lonely, little Louisa. The archeology project is of an ancient Roman fort called Sulpitium on Hadrianâ€˜s Wall. The site has been beset by problems and â€œbad luckâ€� for years. A factor in this may be the resentment of the local people at the loss of a local farm first to a wealthy Englishman who bought the land at the turn of the twentieth century, and then to Valerie's University. As the story progresses, the site is sabotaged by obviously human sources. Archie Robson and his younger brother Randall are the most likely suspects. Another worrisome factor is the risk of fire due to a drought. Pennie secretly gets to know Randall, and learns the truth behind the incidents. Over the eventful summer, she also comes to a better understanding of how complicated but still worthwhile family relationships can be.
This report prepared by Susan Coffey