Thanks to some random English assignment, Mary Anne keeps reading Poe stuff while home alone. That naturally makes her think about and miss Dawn. During the net BSC meeting, she takes a call from Mr. Cates, a new client who is conveniently opening Poe & Co., a bookstore in a historic mansion. Kristy kindly gives her the job.
See, Stoneybrook was apparently home to Benson Dalton Gable. Not only was he a compatriot of Poe's, but there are rumors that Poe maybe stole ideas from him or even killed him. She meets Tom and Gillian, the two kids of the bookstore owner. They hate living in the old mansion, hate that it keeps raining, and hate that their mom isn't there. They also really dislike Ms. Spark, the bookstore designer (is that even a real job?), but that might be because she and their dad have a clear spark.
Mary Anne also meets Professor Kingslover, an English professor from the local college who has an unhealthy obsession with Poe and Alex Gable. His dad sold the family home, and it's pretty clear that he hates it. She also meets Andy, the foreman for the construction crew. These names are important because all become suspects later.
Since this is a mystery book, you know weird things must happen. Mary Anne and Logan wind up in the building alone one night and hear what sounds like a thudding heartbeat. Though she tells Cates about it, he blows her off and explains that it was probably just rain. She also finds a letter signed Annabelle Lee that he asks her not to tell Mrs. Spark about, and she later finds a raven carved in an old shelf.
Alex always seems to be around to piss and moan about something. He goes off on the professor about how Poe stole from his ancestor and “proves” it by showing a series of raven carvings on the fireplace. Alex keeps whining about all the renovations they keep doing to “his” house, and makes a huge pain of himself. The only time he seems like a normal teenager is when he pops up to flirt with Stacey.
Claudia gets a job sitting for Tom and Gillian, which means taking them to the movies. Tom acts like a huge pain, whines about not getting to play in the arcade, and ditches Claudia to play games when he's supposed to be in the bathroom. He also complains about the Pike kids being there with their mom and mopes about being “forced” to see Star Wars. He's apparently so mean to Ms. Spark when she picks them up that she actually heads home early.
Since Cates clearly has no idea what he's doing, he hires the BSC to come over whenever and help him out. This leads to random members showing up at random times and doing random things like painting, watching the kids, or organizing book shipments. At one point, Pluto, a black cat named for the cat in The Black Cat, gets trapped behind a wall during the renovation. Mary Anne decides to keep track of everything in the BSC mystery book until they find the solution.
Mary Anne pretty much suspects everyone. She thinks it's Andy and his crew because he complains about how much work the house needs and how he'd do better finacially if they tore down the house and built new ones. Alex is a suspect because he makes it clear that he wants his house back. She even suspects that the kids are doing it to to scare off Ms. Spark.
Somehow, a big black raven shows up in the bookstore. Cates adopts it and names it Lenore. Mary Anne checks with the bird store and finds out that someone matching Alex's description came in asking if anyone bought a raven recently and that a woman purchased the bird under the name Lenore. They also find a headstone in the basement that looks like a real grave, and one of the construction workers thinks he sees a ghost.
Mary Anne, Stacey, and Mallory find a boom box that plays the same heartbeat sound she heard before. Mallory borrows the triplets' fingerprint kit, they make coffee, and make everyone drink. After pulling prints from the cups, Claudia uses her artistic eye to determine that the fingerprints on the stereo match Cates.
Realizing he did this all just to get some publicity, Mary Anne sets him up. Mallory turns on the boom box, Mary Anne catches him, and he gives up. The kids get excited because they spent the whole book looking for that boom box. He confesses that he did it all with the help of Ms. Spark, who once worked in Hollywood with her special effects expert ex-husband. The only thing they didn't do was wall up poor Pluto.
Gillian runs off and hides from her brother, but they find her hiding in a secret spot inside the desk in the original writer's old desk. She tells them about a second hidden spot, which conveniently has his lap desk inside. It turns out that Poe only visited once, they made plans to meet again, but then Gable passed away. We still have no clue what happened to him, where he died, or even where he's buried.
At the big launch party, Cates awards Mary Anne the grand prize, which is an exclusive luxury version of Poe's collected works. She gladly accepts it but doesn't remember entering the contest. Alex takes center stage and tells everyone about his ancestor's work. As Mary Anne leaves, she swear she sees the ghost of Dalton standing by his desk.
The B-plot is all about how it won't stop raining in Stoneybrook, which drives all the kids crazy. Kristy and Jessi, while sitting for a bunch of kids, decide to hold a rainy day festival. They all wear sunglasses, build sandcastles, and play sunny day games. In a completely unlike her move, Stacey gets excited about making mud pies and encourages all the boys to make their own. It naturally stops raining on the day of the festival.
*It's funny that when Ms. Spark asks Logan and Mary Anne to paint, she means literally paint a wall. When she asks Claudia for the same thing, it somehow means paint an intricate trim/border around a room.
*Claudia is such a fantastic artist that she can paint a life size version of Nancy Drew on one of the walls.
*Kristy volunteers the BSC to write “reviews” of their favorite books as a selling feature, which everyone goes crazy over. All they really do though is write short recaps, which I'm pretty sure are already on the backs of those books.
*Stacey comes across as pretty bitchy a few times, and the ghostwriter almost makes it seem like she knows more than she does. It's things like her smirking at the idea of a real ghost being in the house, she's described as having a smile playing on her lips when others freak out, and stuff like that.
*Cates tells Mary Anne that he can use as much help as they can provide but that he isn't sure how much he can pay them. Does that mean they just randomly show up to watch his kids without knowing if he'll pay their full rate?
*Abby comes over to “help” but because of her allergies, she instantly has to run upstairs and watch the kids. Given that she's allergic to dust, paint, and a million other things, why would she even bother to show up?
*Professor Kingslover is basically your stereotypical superstitious person. She flips out at the idea of a black cat, refuses to walk under a ladder, snaps at Alex for opening an umbrella in the house, and walks around rubbing her four-leaf clover necklace. Mary Anne notices that she has a rabbit's foot on her bag too.
*Mary Anne has a bunch of ideas for her English project and runs them by her teacher. The teacher likes the idea of her doing a diorama but wants some written component and suggests she also write fake letters between the two men. Are you kidding me? It's eighth grade English, pick one or the other!
*Despite Tom being a whiny brat throughout the whole book, it's okay because he just really misses his mom. Haven't we heard this story a million times? Also, the letter Mary Anne found from Annabelle Lee was from their mom. It's nice that she has time to write her ex-husband but not her kids.
*Stacey brings Charlotte to see Star Wars because they watched it on television and loved it, which seems out of character for both of them.
*Claudia wears some outfit with rain drops painted on jeans, which seems like a waste to me, a vest over a long sleeve shirt, and earrings shaped like umbrellas.
*Jessi makes some random joke about tossing out an idea to see if it floats. I know she's supposed to be the “funny” one, but I cringe every time she tells a joke.