Two friends team up to save their town from an ancient supernatural evil in this suspenseful middle-grade novel.
In his latest work, Smith (The Owls Have Come To Take Us Away, 2019, etc.) weaves together an eerie adventure narrative as nail-biting and mysterious as Roald Dahl’s The Witches. Set in a downtrodden seaside town appropriately named Gloom, the tale follows a single mother and her son. Desperate to help in the endless struggle to make ends meet, Rory, a young dark-skinned biracial boy who takes after his father instead of his white mother, regards a job notice advertising a valet position at the opulent Foxglove Manor as a godsend. He’s so eager he overlooks the townwide speculation that the manor contains some malevolent spirit. Before long, Rory can no longer ignore the sinister butler whose face looks inhuman, the mysterious dinner guests who aren’t served food yet leave behind a pile of bones with the marrow sucked out, and a human heart found buried in the back garden. When Lord Foxglove, his enigmatic employer, discovers Rory snooping, he is forced to flee for his life. Together with best friend Izzy, a white girl who lives next door, Rory sets out to unravel the mystery of the manor and save Gloom from whatever lurks inside. Anchoring this well-paced story is a solid cast of characters whose central relationships feel authentic and grounded.
A yarn as full of magic and intrigue as any fairy tale or pirate song. (Suspense. 10-12)