Clara Dooley has been shut away for her entire life of 12 years, because she has a weak heart. She lives in the old Glendoveer house with her mother, a maid/caretaker/family friend named Ruby, and old Mrs. Glendoveer.
Clara likes being in the house, but she does get lonely and upset. She is not allowed to have any friends over, out of concerns for her health, and she is homeschooled. She can see the schoolchildren on their walk to school as they pass by from a window, and it just makes her feel worse.
On top of that, there's the aviary.
The aviary is a massive birdcage, big enough for multiple people to fit inside. The cage is home to five birds. A mynah bird, a cockatoo, a grackle, a kiskadee, and a honeycreeper. All five are as loud and as noisy as can be. The birds scare Clara. Every time she gets close, they start shrieking and screeching as if their lives depended on it.
One day, the mynah bird speaks. "Elliot!" it says. Clara runs to Mrs. Glendoveer and tells her, then asks her who Elliot is. Mrs. Glendoveer explains that Elliot was her son, who was kidnapped a long time ago.
Mrs. Glendoveer has fallen ill, and is getting worse by the day. She dies within a week, and Clara is allowed to go to her funeral at the Glendoveer family crypt. Inside, she sees the names of members of the Glendoveer family: Helen, and Arthur, Peter, Frances, and George. And Elliot.
Days later, she sneaks her new friend Daphne into the house, and Daphne tells Clara that there used to be children in the Glendoveer house, but they went missing. No one knew what happened to them, until their bodies turned up in a nearby lake. Except for one. The body of baby Elliot. Clara is shocked. She and Daphne vow to find out the mystery of the children's murder, and what really happened to Elliot.
The Aviary is an awesome thriller about a kidnapping/murder cold case. It features two young girls, old secrets, tragedy, and talking birds. Plus a bit of magic. This is a bit "younger" of a book than I have been reviewing lately - less YA and more "big kids chapter book" but I still enjoyed it, and I would recommend this for ages 8+, as the story line and language are tame enough for young readers, but older readers will still get enjoyment out of the story as well.