Joan Lowry Nixon crafts a competent ghost story with a likeable heroine, but the plot could use a little less mystery and a little more ghostly interference. But fans of haunted houses and mysterious family secrets will enjoy this a great deal.
Lia is an unspectacular member of a family known for its impressive women. When her great-grandmother dies, she tells Lia that their ancestral house, Graymoss, must be preserved -- even though it is thought to be hideously evil. However, Lia's blindly optimistic parents have an obsessive dream of adopting a dozen "unadoptable" children, and are determined to turn Graymoss into a home for those kids. Lia is less than thrilled about the idea, both because of the disruption of her life and because of the ghosts.
Before leaving, Lia purchases a bag of voodoo gris-gris that will repel ghosts. And soon she finds that she needs it -- strange gusts of wind, a crashing window, a falling book, and a strange indentation in her bed. Her parents refuse to believe that there is anything strange about the house, but Lia can feel a malevolent presence. Armed with gris-gris, a cryptic diary and a collection of Poe's stories, she must try to banish the evil forces from Graymoss.
Nixon crafts a good story with plenty of sprinkled clues, family conflicts, and a big creaky house with no bathrooms. Her dialogue is pleasantly solid and believable, without fake witticisms or overly complex monologues. It's easy to imagine real people saying these words. Her portrayals of the family and their differing views on Graymoss were exceptionally done. And the mystery clues sprinkled in the Poe book and the old diary from a Civil War Southern belle were also clever and pulled the various threads of the story together.
Unfortunately, this book is not particularly scary. The ghostly interludes are few and far between, and even when they do surface, they are not particularly detailed or frightening -- Nixon seems to be stuck on plaster faces that move and gusts of wind, because the "boo!" effects never progress beyond that. She also inserts a lukewarm love interest and a subplot about the unadoptable kids. While these are good in themselves, they seem rather pointless as nothing is really done with them.
Lia is a likeable heroine; she's really accomplished nothing noteworthy, but doesn't allow that fact to get her down. She also shows extraordinary patience with her dewy-eyed parents, who for all their talk about "reality" seem to have very little grasp on it. Their reckless plans to adopt "unadoptable" kids (who are often unadoptable for very good reasons) will have many readers rolling their eyes. Her grandmother exhibits a different kind of irritating stubbornness, but one that readers will warm to much more readily.
Despite the drawbacks, this is a pretty solid historical mystery -- but the realm of the juvenile horror story is still John Bellairs's. If you like family secrets and a few "boo!" moments, this might be your speed.
- Library Binding: 184 pages
- Publisher: San Val (February 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1417713070
- ISBN-13: 978-1417713073
- Product Dimensions: 19.3 x 12.7 x 1.8 cm
- Shipping Weight: 236 g
- Average Customer Review: 19 customer reviews