A MONSTER ON THE MOORS by J.M. Kelly

A MONSTER ON THE MOORS

A Bobby Holmes Thriller
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KIRKUS REVIEW

In this YA sequel, a group of friends becomes convinced the creature terrorizing an English countryside is not an escaped beast but an ancient evil.

Londoner Bobby Holmes is looking forward to a vacation with his Scotland Yard inspector mum, Melanie, in northern England. But he’s especially excited that his American cousin, Brenda Watson, and their friends Stevie Nichols and Michael Kelleher will be joining him. It’s been a year since the four shared an adventure in Connecticut, where they confronted a ghost pirate. Bobby learned to accept his gift of clairvoyance back then, but a recent vision (jumbled images of a darkened forest and his pals in trouble) has him worried about the upcoming vacation. Upon Melanie and Bobby’s arrival in the North York Moors, a stranger grabs the boy and whispers a vague warning that he is in danger. Their driver to the Wolf’s Head Inn, James Thwackett, also has “Second Sight” and, like Bobby, senses something amiss. Someone later uncovers a bloody, mutilated body that a local constable wants to attribute to an abused animal turned wild. But Bobby rejects that theory, particularly after receiving additional warnings of peril. He believes there’s an ancient evil roaming the Moors, and stopping it entails first researching the area’s history and talking to townsfolk, with help from his mates and James. Unexpectedly, one of Bobby’s friends disappears, and the ensuing rescue attempt leads to a malevolence far deadlier than the group could have imagined.

Kelly (Tommy Ails, Good for What Ails You, 2015, etc.) establishes the story’s malice with a sensational opening: the harrowing pursuit of an unknown woman is presented from the beastly aggressor’s point of view. This frenzied scene amplifies the atmospheric scenes that follow. On the ride to the inn, for example, Bobby spots a pub waiter inexplicably glaring at him. The boy subsequently visits fog-laden Whitby, the town that inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula. While the much-teased titular monster does make an appearance, it’s suspense that drives the narrative. The mere notion of the creature, for one, solidified by the discovered corpse, is enough to make any visit to the Moors unnerving, even for gun-toting Melanie. The author treats Bobby’s clairvoyance pragmatically; it’s a trait he doesn’t seem to have mastered, as he never fully comprehends his near-future visions. Fortunately, his friends, sans paranormal abilities, are just as memorable. Michael, who has Asperger’s syndrome, points upward when speaking to help him concentrate on what he wants to say. Similarly, imperfections only enhance characters’ personalities: sometimes abrasive Stevie mocks British vernacular (he prefers the term flashlight over torch) while Brenda literally takes candy from a stranger (though the stranger is a cute, flirty boy). Kelly’s savvy writing is filled with stirring descriptions: “The tilted headstones fanned out across the area like crooked teeth” and “The sun dropped like a stone, and with it, the temperature.” The satisfying climax is over a bit too soon, but readers will undoubtedly be invested in this thriller series and ready for whatever Bobby, et al., tackle next.

A spook fest that wisely centers on strong characters and lurid prose.

Page count: 247pp
Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher
Program: Kirkus Indie
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