After a family moves to a derelict old house in West Virginia, creepy things begin to happen.
Daniel, given substance by his first-person narration, is frustrated. His imperceptive, unobservant, cardboardlike parents fail to understand the difficult situation the move (forced by his father’s job loss) has placed his 7-year-old sister, Erica, and him in. Wayward kids at their backward school are bullying, Erica’s hearing a creepy voice calling her and taking refuge by focusing only on a new doll, and Daniel is gradually learning of a witch who inhabits the woods and takes little girls from their homes every 50 years—although the exact reason for that interval isn’t fully explained. At first he’s skeptical, but evidence begins to prove him wrong. With the tale periodically presented from the witch’s point of view, the potential suspense entailed by Daniel’s disbelief is completely eliminated. After Erica disappears into the woods, doesn’t come back, and is replaced by a girl who was taken 50 years ago, Daniel, faced with his grief-stricken parents’ disbelief, must confront the witch alone to recover his sister. At that point, the sense of menace rises. A too-neat happy ending undermines the potential for this story to haunt readers’ imaginations.
A bit flimsy but good for some chills on a dark night. (Horror. 10-13)