Some of Bellairs' recent sorcery/mystery-adventures (e.g., The Curse of the Blue Figurine) have made the characters as important as the spookery. Here, however, the accent is on a wild, ghoulish plot, even if the laconic narration and wry dialogue keep things from getting heavy or morbid. As in The Treasure of Alpheus Winterborn (1978), Bellairs' hero is 14-year-old Anthony Monday, growing up in mid-1950s rural Minnesota--with lots of moral support from elderly librarian Miss Eells, his best friend. And the trouble begins when Miss Eells, fending off the boredom of a temporary assignment to a dead "hick town" branch, leads Anthony on a hike to the abandoned Weatherend estate of "major fruitcake" J. K. Borkman: Anthony finds the late Mr. Borkman's handwritten memoirs--all about his apocalyptic ideas on weather-control magic--under some rotting boards. Could there be a link, then, between crazy Borkman and the bizarre weather that soon starts afflicting Minnesota? Anthony thinks so; Miss Eells disagrees. ("You're making a big fat hairy mistake.") But what about the sudden arrival of Borkman's creepy, bearded son Anders--who secretly hypnotizes Anthony and Miss Eells into some highly strange behavior? (Miss E. goes berserk at a prim library tea.) Isn't it obvious that Borkman Jr. "is a cold-blooded fanatic who will stop at nothing to carry out the ghastly plans of his maniac father?" It is indeed. So, with help from Miss E.'s lawyer-brother Emerson, Anthony and Miss E. launch an attack on Weatherend--only to find themselves repelled by homocidal leaves and other occult forces. Then, determined to learn the Borkman family secrets, they set off for a cemetery in Duluth (the resting place of Borkman Sr.). And finally, after contending with Borkmanesque obstacles along the way (blizzards, shape-shifting goblins), they invade the Borkman tomb and have a creepy showdown with Borkman Jr.--a non-human entity who is handily destroyed (by not-very-persuasive forces). Anthony is less three-dimensional here than he was in his debut; the plot gets murky and frenetic at the close. But Miss Eells remains a no-nonsense, imperfect guardian angel--and there's a nice balance most of the way through between folksy charm and gently intense suspense.