What better place to haunt than a bookstore specializing in occult subjects and run by an ex-magician?
Pale and solitary in the wake of a terrible car accident, voracious reader Billy Shivers finds an awesome trove of the ghost stories he loves in the Haunted House of Books, presided over by Rexford Rapscallion—whose wolfish grin and mad laugh conceal a gentle heart embittered by the slings and arrows of punk teen vandals and other nonreaders. Ultimately Rapscallion challenges a group of said aliterates (who bear names like “Wilson Dirtbag” and “Lenore Gas”) to sit through a reading of a newly discovered tale co-authored by Mary Shelley and John Polidori. When the story itself leaves them, predictably, bored and uncomprehending, spectral agents in the shop step in to deliver whispered rebukes that send the thoroughly stereotyped ingrates screaming out into the dark and stormy night. Kerr never relates that (fictional) story, but he does insert five original spooky tales, along with lengthy rhymed rants about kids today and the benefits of frightening them. He also fills out the narrative with many digs at nonreaders (also lawyers and librarians), plus so-clever comments about the doorstoppers of author “Esteban Rex” (get it?) and other veiled literary references.
A patchwork outing thicker of agenda than atmosphere and likely to prompt, title notwithstanding, a few mild snickers and chills. (author’s note) (Fantasy. 11-13)