Hotes’ (The Crystal Lair, 2013) Halloween tale tells of graveyards, unfinished business and seekers after the unknown.
The four rubbings of the title are impressions on paper, made from grave markers rubbed with black chalk. A group of teenage friends, led by young Josie, go out on Halloween night to visit a purportedly haunted cemetery and to take rubbings from the headstones there. While Josie hopes for some contact with the spirit of her dead mother, her friends Casey, Blaze and Seth are drawn to other graves. They find themselves called by the mysteries of the people laid to rest there and the loose ends of their lives. The kids begin four personal journeys as they research what happened to the dead men and women behind the rubbings; perhaps they’ll find ways to bring closure to stories long left unresolved. The thoughtful, intelligent and altogether human narrative shows how lives can interweave even after death. Hotes masterfully brings her characters to life, both the living and the dead; each is vivid and involving. The supernatural is present, but it’s as subtle as a shadow on the moon. One of the most startling moments—when an eerie photograph crumbles—could just as easily be the result of a printer’s toner malfunction as the wrath of the angry dead. The characters connect to the world of the strange in ways that feel real—odd sensations, weird coincidences, chilling images and vague encounters. On a technical level, the text is clean and professional, with welcome poise: “I kick the glove compartment with my mud-caked boot and smile when I see the brown scuff I’ve left on his fancy Italian leather.” Although the book is the first in a series, the author makes sure that it’s quite satisfying on its own.
Quality YA suspense set in a world full of fantastic possibilities.