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THE BLACK HEART CRYPT by Chris Grabenstein


From the Haunted Mysteries series, volume 4

by Chris Grabenstein

Age Range: 10 - 13

Pub Date: Aug. 23rd, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-375-86900-6
Publisher: Random House

Blood both spills and tells in a small Connecticut town when 13 bad-seed specters from the same family escape from their crypt one Halloween.

They range from an 18th-century highwayman to a murderous Capone-era gangster dubbed “Crazy Izzy” and were all confined in the same tomb years ago thanks to spells cast by Zack Jennings’ three great-aunts. Eleven-year-old Zack’s inherited ability to see ghosts may be a mixed blessing at best, but it comes in handy when the 13 spectral Icklebys break out, seize control of their nerdy but increasingly willing descendant Norman and embark on a vengeful crime spree. Fortunately, most of the Icklebys turn out to be easily sidetracked, and equally fortunately Zack has allies on both sides of the dirt (as the author puts it), from the aforementioned great-aunts (weird sisters indeed, flying in from their Florida retirement home with a full stock of witchly goods and exorcism chants) to a headless cat ghost. As in Zack’s three previous Haunted Mystery outings (The Smoky Corridor, 2010, etc.), the pace never flags. Through flurries of ultra-short chapters, events spiral to a suspenseful climax, and the mix of corpses and comedy add up to a faintly macabre tone that isn’t dispelled even by the end’s just deserts and happy outcomes.

A grave tale indeed, if not entirely serious. (Supernatural adventure. 10-13)