Is Abbot Stein predicting deaths with his etchings…or causing them?
Twelve-year-old Bernadette “Bernie” Morrison wants to help her father in his business, Alpine Monuments, so that he can spend more time with her mother, who is still deeply depressed—to the point of being bed-ridden—over the death of Bernie’s infant brother Thomas nearly a year ago. When a stranger, Stein, appears with an apparent talent for creating portraits in stone, Mr. Morrison hires him and lets him stay in the carriage house. Bernie’s elation at the new face and a possible source of training vanishes in the face of Stein’s gruff attitude and general creepiness. When Bernie discovers Stein has etched portraits of townspeople before they died, she sets out to find out how and to stop him with the help of oddball new kid and sheriff’s son Michael Romano. Does Stein have anything to do with the deaths? And what does any of this have to do with the mysterious Isabella, whose portrait in stone Stein carries with him? Goebel’s debut is a plodding, slightly supernatural thriller wrapped around an after-school special. Inoffensive enough (except, perhaps, for some kissing between Bernie and Michael) and far from frightening, the plot and setting are nearly as stock as the characters.
For budding fans of problem fiction interested in a little spookiness. (Supernatural fiction. 8-11)