We Played With Fire

Maggie has witnessed impossible things. But no one believes her, and now her family has taken her away to spend the winter upstate in a remote, freezing farmhouse. Bored and angry, Maggie and her younger sister Kate start to play tricks: rapping on the floorboards above their parents’ bedroom, cracking their toes under the table, and telling tales about noises in the night. Then the house starts to make sounds of its own. Neither Maggie nor Kate can explain it, but it seems as though someone – or something – is trying to speak to them . . . Inspired by the incredible true tale of the Fox Sisters, the girls who made their fortune in nineteenth-century America by claiming to speak to ghosts.

Publisher: Andersen Press
ISBN: 9781839130069
Publication date: 04/02/21

Winner of the Young Quills Historical Fiction Award
Nominated for the Carnegie Medal

This is a chilling story for older readers, subtle and creeping with echoes of Shirley Jackson. Maggie is a wonderful character, impulsive and flawed but hugely relatable, and her slow realisation that she might be in over her head whilst nobody believes her is heartbreakingly written.


Rich in historic atmosphere and detail, and smouldering with female desire to be heard in a patriarchal society, Catherine Barter’s We Played with Fire is a hauntingly riveting read.


A truly exciting work of historical fiction, We Played With Fire is also a genuinely chilling Gothic read… The tension of this novel lies precisely in the author’s evasion of easy answers. Catherine wanted to re-cast the Fox Sisters as more complex figures than previous biographies would have them, and the result is a text which equivocates tantalisingly.

Books For Keeps

“Barter’s second novel is atmospheric, genuinely unsettling and laced with acute political and feminist observation.”

Imogen Russell Williams, The Guardian
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