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Crane Mansions is a darkly comic and magical world in which the wondering, fantasy and confusion of children come face to face with the schemes, delusions and machinations of adults.
Scheming Trish Vowles dumps her orphaned charge Millie Lord at Crane Mansions Regulatory School for the Indigent while she waits to cash in on Millie’s inheritance with the use of a forged will. In the harsh seven years that follow, Millie remembers nothing about her past, but is troubled by flashes of memory, strange dreams and odd lines of verse. Headmaster Dr Hubert Crane, who spends his days developing Texts and Axioms based on his observation of pigeons, becomes convinced Millie has visionary powers, and calls her to his study for sessions of Interpretation and afternoon teas of splendiferous cake.
Many schemes are afoot at Crane Mansions: schoolmaster Odell Vincent is working on a top-secret invention and the shifty Len Clemons and his friend Eustace Crane infiltrate the school to steal it; the senior boys have a pigeon-betting ring going; and the megalomaniac senior master Marcel Crane, who is embezzling Dr Crane's funds, is digging into Millie's past, convinced she smells of money. When Trish falls in love with Marcel they team up to take control of her fortune. All of these plots converge and collide: justice visits itself on the schemers, and the lovers of cake emerge wiser, saner and happier. It's the book Dickens would have written if he’d had enough hummingbird cake.

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