When modern 16-year-old Megan McGowan falls to her death from the cliffs at Fort Williams, the spirit of Abby Cummings, who died in a shipwreck off the Maine coast in 1883, awakens to help her.
Abby has risen several times over the years to help the spirits of the conflicted departed move on by resolving the issues they left unfinished in life. Now the girls must discover what is holding Megan back, and that means finding out if her fall was an accident, suicide or murder. Abby herself must avoid the vengeful spirit of her uncle, the Rev. Wheeler, who serves a darker master than he did in life, and discover why she is drawn to teenager Jim Burke. Can the girls avoid Wheeler, his Hell Hounds and the Reapers and solve the mystery in time? Hautala died in early 2013, and this, his last novel, shows signs of premature separation. Obviously planned as the start of a series, this stiff, melodramatic offering would have improved over subsequent drafts had its author lived. Clichéd characters, an obvious mystery, a fuzziness to the supernatural logic, and a rushed, unsatisfying climax belie Hautala’s Bram Stoker Lifetime Achievement Award. An unease in balancing child and (frequently foulmouthed) adult characters further marks the story as still in development. Nevertheless, kids who find their curiosity piqued by unresolved questions about Abby’s world may hope for the stories to continue, as a tantalizing ending suggests.
Not, alas, quite ready for prime time. (Supernatural mystery. 12-14)