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)