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.
If you’re a regular reader of my blog you’ll know that I love creepy stories of all kinds. Ghosts, werewolves, zombies, vampires, and other creatures that live in the dark are often featured in the books I love. I’ve been reading many of the first titles from Hot Key Books (a brilliant new publisher based in the UK) and when I read about Constable & Toop by Gareth P. Jones I had to get my hands on it. A ghost story set in Victorian London, featuring a boy who could communicate with ghosts, sounded absolutely fantastic! Constable & Toop was even better than it sounded.
Sam Toop lives in a funeral parlour, blessed (or cursed) with an unusual gift. While his father buries the dead, Sam is haunted by their constant demands for attention. Trouble is afoot on the ‘other side’ – there is a horrible disease that is mysteriously imprisoning ghosts into empty houses in the world of the living. And Sam is caught in the middle – will he be able to bring himself to help?
Constable & Toop is a creepy, gruesome story, with plenty of mystery, and a good dose of wit and humour. Gareth can have you cringing one moment and laughing the next, which is why I liked the book so much. He has given us a glimpse inside the ghost world and it’s not what you would expect. It’s the ghost world and the witty banter between his characters that provide the comic relief of the story. There is also plenty of throat slitting and stabbing for those who like their ghost stories gruesome. The story is set in Victorian London and from the first page you are immersed in the sights, sounds and smells of the period.
There are several different threads of the story, following different characters, which Gareth weaves together perfectly. Gareth shows us the lives of the living and the dead, and the ‘Talkers’ allow them to communicate with each other. Characters whose lives seem quite separate from each other in the beginning become increasingly intertwined as the story progresses.
The thing I liked the most about Constable and Toop was the way that Gareth portrayed the ghost world. It’s very bureaucratic, with each ghost having a role, like Enforcer or Prowler, and there are lots of rules and regulations that ghosts must follow. If they don’t do as they are told they’re labelled Rogues and are hunted down. There is an incredible amount of paperwork that needs to be filled out to do anything, and you must have a license in order to be a Poltergeist. In order to go to the physical world and find out what your unfinished business is (so that you can step through the Unseen Door and cross over) you have to apply for a research license. Lapsewood is my favourite character because he’s a very likeable guy, who just wants to get away from all the paperwork and get some adventure out in the real world (while impressing the girl of his dreams). He has some of the best lines and has some incredibly strange conversations with his superiors, who can never seem to get his name right.
If you want a ghost story with a difference grab a copy of Constable and Toop by Gareth P. Jones. I would recommend it for fans of Derek Landy’s Skulduggery Pleasant series, Joseph Delaney’s Spook’s Apprentice series, or Barry Hutchison’s Invisible Fiends series.
5 out of 5 stars
If you’re a fan ofThe Spook’s Apprentice series by Joseph Delaney, you’ll be excited to hear the latest book in the series, The Spook’s Blood is released in NZ this month. I love this gripping, creepy series and I’m always excited to read the next installment. Grab your copy from your library or bookshop now in July.
Michelle Harrison’s new book, Unrest, is my latest obsession. It’s one of the creepiest, spine-tingling books I’ve read and makes me consider sleeping with the light on. It’s out now in NZ. Check out the creepy book trailer for Unrest and hear Michelle talk about her book and her top 5 ghost stories
Liesl and Po by Lauren Oliver is one of the fantastic books I’m reading at the moment. It’s a really magical book and one of those stories that you can get lost in. If you like books like The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane and The Magician’s Elephant by Kate DiCamillo, I highly recommend it. Reserve it at your library now.