A little talky toward the end, but a tasty chiller-thriller for all fans of macabre twists and Unfortunate...

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SKARY CHILDRIN AND THE CAROUSEL OF SORROW

Delectably horrific doings in a cursed small town make reluctant allies of four bullied children.

The pall of fear and suspicion that hangs over Pernicious Valley in the wake of a magical storm 12 years before (“My grandfather says that’s why they cremate people now. ‘Cuz of the zombies”) is thickening even further as people have begun to mysteriously go missing. At the same time, a hungry little carousel has appeared in the local woods, a seemingly friendly candy man has opened a kiosk in town and a tall, sinister figure with obviously evil intentions has taken to slipping in and out of view. Gradually putting aside their personal miseries, a trio of despised students from dreadful Madame Gertrude’s School for Girls—Adelaide, keen of senses and wolfish of features; tough-talking, super strong Maggie; and shy Beatrice, talker to ghosts and daughter of itinerant celebrity morticians—join forces with Steffen, neglected son of a school cook, to winkle out the ugly connections between these goings-on. Creator of a series of Edward Gorey–like animated short films, Towell tucks violent tempests, maggoty slime, hideous transformations, nightmares, sudden terrors and like atmosphere-building elements into a rousingly melodramatic literary debut.

A little talky toward the end, but a tasty chiller-thriller for all fans of macabre twists and Unfortunate Events. (Melodrama. 10-13)

Pub Date: Aug. 23, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-375-86859-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2011

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There’s nothing exceptional here, but the otherworldly elements and headlong pacing will sweep readers along.

HENRY HUNTER AND THE CURSED PIRATES

From the Henry Hunter series , Vol. 2

In a second brush with the supernatural (following Henry Hunter and the Beast of Snagov, 2016), brainy young sleuth Henry and his faithful chronicler, Adolphus, are kidnapped by undead pirates. Yo ho ho!

News that a friend’s parents have vanished on a cruise in the Caribbean prompts the dapper kid detective (looking ever natty in suit, tie, and fedora in Tankard’s lavishly detailed drawings) to take a quick sabbatical from St. Grimbold’s School for Extraordinary Boys and fly to Barbados to investigate. Hardly has he begun than an ectoplasmic tentacle grabs him and his sidekick, Dolf—depositing both aboard the spectral ship of Blackbeard himself. The legendary pirate is still around courtesy of a curse laid on a certain bit of booty and, since ghosts can’t hold shovels, bent on collecting hapless tourists to dig up buried treasure. Matthews enthusiastically chucks bits of pirate lore, along with the odd skeleton, map, and treasure chest, into the enterprise, and for additional atmosphere, the illustrator strews margins and corners with bugs, fish, stormy seas, and nautical jetsam. Aside from a “Rastafarian” guide, the entire cast, living and otherwise, is evidently white (and, with one minor exception, male). By the end, the curse is broken, the pirates gone, the captives rescued, and Henry himself mysteriously vanished in the wake of an encounter with merpeople. Stay tuned.

There’s nothing exceptional here, but the otherworldly elements and headlong pacing will sweep readers along. (Fantasy/mystery. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-51071-039-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Sky Pony Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2017

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No genre trope is left in the basket, making the result more a crazy quilt than a free-standing series opener.

A DARK INHERITANCE

From the UFiles series , Vol. 1

This admixture of suspicious deaths, ghosts, shifting realities, weird science, teen issues, family issues, secret organizations and unexplained events in a British town will all, no doubt, come clear in future episodes.

As the story opens, Michael suddenly develops the ability to read a suicidal dog’s intentions and teleport himself a short distance to rescue it. After this remarkable occurrence, he is forcibly inducted into a group called UNexplained Incidents, Cryptic Occurrences, Relative Nontemporal Events by the sinister, inhumanly strong Amadeus Klimt and his hot, surly, butt-kicking assistant Chantelle. Learning that he can alter events by “imagineering” himself into alternate universes, Michael squeaks past multiple murder attempts while stumbling through a nightmarish mystery. This involves moody goth schoolmate Freya and Rafferty, the killed (but not gone, thanks to “cellular memory”) former owner of both the dog and Freya’s transplanted heart. For comic relief, d’Lacey adds a younger but smarter sister to expedite Michael’s relations with the opposite sex. He also chucks in strange revelations about their long-missing father, a luridly icky science lab scene, dragons, unicorns, UFOs (possibly), a melodramatic climax featuring literal cliffhanging and several encounters with dead teens.

No genre trope is left in the basket, making the result more a crazy quilt than a free-standing series opener. (Fantasy/science fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 27, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-545-60876-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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