A movie crew stirs up old ghosts and new hopes in this probable close to a run of melodramatic mishaps.
The moldering and despised suburb of Spooking not only looks the perfect setting for a planned horror movie, its residents, both living and otherwise, form a ready-made cast. This is particularly the case after the female lead vanishes in the local graveyard, and dazzled young preteen Joy Wells is hired to replace her. Festooned with old curses, creaky doors, sudden gusts and atmospheric extras, the off-camera doings lurch their way fetchingly to a climax. Alas for the adjacent town’s hopes of an economic windfall, the film gets the chop, and so do Joy’s dreams of stardom. Though appealingly large of heart and strong of will, as well as a passionate student and defender of Spooking’s rich history, here Joy must share center stage with several adults whose pasts and inner conflicts are more thoroughly explored than in the earlier books (Unearthly Asylum, 2010, etc.). Furthermore, references throughout to earlier events make the previous episodes required reading, and the end comes in a long, labored tally of revelations, resolutions and reconciliations.
A patchy close to a series built around characters and themes that will have more resonance for grown-ups than kids. Still, young readers who relish gothic comedy may stay the course. (Fantasy. 11-13)