Dr. Albert Bell, professor of history at Hope College, is the author of a new middle-grade novel, "The Secret of the Bradford House," published this month.

The second in a series, the mystery is set around Lake Barkley, in southwest Kentucky, where Bell's in-laws had a houseboat.

In 2008 Bell's first middle-grade novel, "The Secret of the Lonely Grave," won the Evelyn Thurman Young Readers' Award, given by the Western Kentucky University Libraries. The book also won a Silver Medal in Juvenile Fiction from the Mom's Choice Awards.

The main characters in the series are 11-year-old Steve Patterson and Kendra Jordan, neighbors and friends living on the outskirts of Cadiz. Steve is white, while Kendra is African American. In "The Secret of the Lonely Grave" they learn that their town has a connection with the Civil War and the Underground Railroad which has been forgotten. Steve also has to deal with a school bully.

In "The Secret of the Bradford House," strange things start happening when an old house near their homes is being renovated. Lights go on and off for no apparent reason. A swing starts moving when no one is sitting in it. A new neighbor, Rachel Mendoza, believes the house is haunted. The presence of this "third wheel," who sees Steve as possibly more than a friend, complicates Steve and Kendra's friendship. Steve is also reconnecting with his divorced dad.

Bell's middle-grade books have been praised by reviewers for their "excellent story line, great characters, and issues with bullying, family values, and a strong sense of friendship." They "tackle difficult and painful topics in meaningful, age-appropriate ways."

A member of the Hope faculty since 1978, Bell has been writing fiction and non-fiction for more than 30 years. His stories and articles have appeared in a variety of magazines, including "Jack and Jill" and "Children's Digest."

He also writes mystery novels for adults, including a Roman mystery series featuring Pliny the Younger. The second in that series, "The Blood of Caesar," was named one of the five best mysteries of 2008 by "Library Journal" and hailed as "a masterpiece of the historical mystery genre."

Bell's books are published by Ingalls Publishing Group of Boone, N.C. His Web site is www.albertbell.com.

The paperback novel costs $11.95 and is on sale at the college's Hope-Geneva Bookstore, on the ground level of the DeWittCenter, 141 E. 12th St., as well as at other area booksellers.