Horror with heart. (Horror. 12-15)


This spine-tingler plunges into the stuff of nightmares.

“The body was lying in a thicket,” it begins. Fourteen-year-old Maya doesn’t remember why she ran off the path in this dark forest. Two dead bodies lie on the ground, each turning its head with eyes aglow. A shadowy figure bends over a third body. Maya stumbles and screams. Her family finds her and guides her out of this terrifying forest, but when they reach their new home/business—a village hotel called the Rowan Tree—something chilling occurs: A police officer sent to investigate is the same person as the first dead body. Not a twin, not a doppelganger—the same person. Maya just knows. Fright and grisliness escalate. Someone unknown and unseen stalks Maya; a fox has an unnatural power to make her follow it; foxes are turning up disemboweled and decapitated—and not just foxes. The narration stays faithful to Maya’s third-person-limited perspective, so readers don’t know who’s good or bad any earlier than she does. Maya’s warm parents and dedicated older brother can’t shield her or the village from danger, and they become targets too. There’s nothing particularly unique or specific about Maya and her family, which works well here, as if this could happen to anyone. When clarity and answers come, they’re sad, satisfying and less supernatural than they first seemed.

Horror with heart. (Horror. 12-15)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-8234-2397-2

Page Count: 216

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2011

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In an unnamed country (a thinly veiled Philippines), three teenage boys pick trash for a meager living. A bag of cash in the trash might be—well, not their ticket out of poverty but at least a minor windfall. With 1,100 pesos, maybe they can eat chicken occasionally, instead of just rice. Gardo and Raphael are determined not to give any of it to the police who've been sniffing around, so they enlist their friend Rat. In alternating and tightly paced points of view, supplemented by occasional other voices, the boys relate the intrigue in which they're quickly enmeshed. A murdered houseboy, an orphaned girl, a treasure map, a secret code, corrupt politicians and 10,000,000 missing dollars: It all adds up to a cracker of a thriller. Sadly, the setting relies on Third World poverty tourism for its flavor, as if this otherwise enjoyable caper were being told by Olivia, the story's British charity worker who muses with vacuous sentimentality on the children that "break your heart" and "change your life." Nevertheless, a zippy and classic briefcase-full-of-money thrill ride. (Thriller. 12-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-385-75214-5

Page Count: 240

Publisher: David Fickling/Random

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2010

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A trilogy opener both rich and strange, if heavy at the front end.


From the Peculiar Children series , Vol. 1

Riggs spins a gothic tale of strangely gifted children and the monsters that pursue them from a set of eerie, old trick photographs.

The brutal murder of his grandfather and a glimpse of a man with a mouth full of tentacles prompts months of nightmares and psychotherapy for 15-year-old Jacob, followed by a visit to a remote Welsh island where, his grandfather had always claimed, there lived children who could fly, lift boulders and display like weird abilities. The stories turn out to be true—but Jacob discovers that he has unwittingly exposed the sheltered “peculiar spirits” (of which he turns out to be one) and their werefalcon protector to a murderous hollowgast and its shape-changing servant wight. The interspersed photographs—gathered at flea markets and from collectors—nearly all seem to have been created in the late 19th or early 20th centuries and generally feature stone-faced figures, mostly children, in inscrutable costumes and situations. They are seen floating in the air, posing with a disreputable-looking Santa, covered in bees, dressed in rags and kneeling on a bomb, among other surreal images. Though Jacob’s overdeveloped back story gives the tale a slow start, the pictures add an eldritch element from the early going, and along with creepy bad guys, the author tucks in suspenseful chases and splashes of gore as he goes. He also whirls a major storm, flying bullets and a time loop into a wild climax that leaves Jacob poised for the sequel.

A trilogy opener both rich and strange, if heavy at the front end. (Horror/fantasy. 12-14)

Pub Date: June 7, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-59474-476-1

Page Count: 234

Publisher: Quirk Books

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2014

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