One of my favourite genres of stories for children and teens is horror. There weren’t many of these types of book around when I was younger, but there is plenty to choose from these days, from Derek Landy and Joseph Delaney, to Darren Shan and Barry Hutchison. Chris Priestley is an author of spooky, chilling and creepy stories that I’ve been reading more of lately and his latest book, Through Dead Eyes is a new favourite.
Alex joins his father on a business trip to Amsterdam. During the day he hangs out with the daughter of a family friend. They visit the usual sights but also coffee shops and flea markets off the beaten track. At one of these markets Alex spots an ancient-looking mask. Before he knows what he’s doing he buys it. Later, in his hotel room, he feels compelled to put the mask on. Alex is sucked into a parallel Amsterdam, one from centuries before which begins to reveal the dark past of both the building he is staying in and the little girl who once lived there edging stealthily towards the terrible twist.
Through Dead Eyes is a chilling ghost story that haunts you long after you’ve turned the last page. I read it on a wet and dreary day which added to the chilling tone. Chris Priestley really knows how to keep the reader on edge throughout the story. The thing I love the most about Chris’s writing is that there are lots of twists that you don’t see coming, especially towards the end of the story, and he leaves you with a feeling of unease. You know that, even though the story has finished, things are not right in the life of the characters. Like any good ghost story you get pieces of the puzzle as the story progresses and you’ve got to figure out how they all fit together. You just hope that the main character solves the puzzle before it’s too late.
The setting of Amsterdam adds to the eerie feeling of the story, because Alex is surrounded by so much history. The buildings are hundreds of years old and they would hold many stories. Alex is drawn to the history of the hotel he is staying in and the strange feelings he has inside his room. This history and the connection between the mask and the paintings draw you in to the story.
The cover is fantastic and captures the tone of the story perfectly. It was the cover, with the mottled and cracked surface, and the creepy eye, that grabbed my attention and made me pick it up.
Through Dead Eyes is great for readers aged 11+ who like to give themselves a good scare.