THE WATCH HOUSE by Robert Westall


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An ingenious, powerfully atmospheric ghost story with conviction, set in an English coastal village where Anne is dumped on a retired family servant when her parents break up. Fussy Old Prudie's brother Arthur keeps up the Brigade Watch House, once the headquarters for regular and dramatic shipwreck rescues, but now no more than a stuffy, unfrequented museum. Still, Arthur is pained that erosion will soon sweep the place into the sea; what's needed is funds for a retaining wall--and as a benign ghostly presence, known to the aging rescue team as the Old Fellow who organized the brigade, also pleads with her (Anhelpanhelpanhelp, it writes in dust before her eyes), she sets to work writing a guidebook and organizing an open house to coincide with the local Carnival. The project succeeds, but the Old Fellow grows more desperate--and Anne increasingly disturbed: by a large, strangely kinetic skull in the museum. . . a possessed dog who digs up only certain graves. . . an elusive red-coated presence here and there. . . all of which are traced at last to another, more sinister ghost who has been terrorizing the poor guilt-ridden Old Fellow since the latter was a living boy of ten. Meanwhile Anne has made a couple of friends who help her uncover old bones and past intrigues--but despite Timmo's bizarre entrance as Dr. Death at a parish hall disco, he and Pat as characters are no more than the chums of old schoolgirl fiction; Anne's real soulmate in this adventure is a young Catholic priest who exorcises the evil ghost in a suspenseful graveyard climax. As in last year's The Wind Eye Westall makes no bones about his own affiliation to orthodoxy; but, in a way, the institutional connection here only lends seriousness and credibility to the whole experience.

Pub Date: April 10th, 1978
Publisher: Greenwillow