June 06, 2005

Summer Reads: Dead Sisters and Plague mysteries

Enough said on the topic of me hating badly written ghost stories -- I have to admit that a couple have caught the eye of some of us skeptics. First, for the YA spooky beach bag is Dead Girls Don't Write Letters, by Gail Giles

Allowing for the fact that I hate gratuitously "spooky" novels, think most mysteries are anything but, roll my eyes at so-called "true crime" thrillers, and think most horror stories are fairly stupid, Giles' dead girls are - surprise - kind of interesting. And yes, there is more than one, you'll be intrigued to find out! But only one writes letters... I was able to stay the course in my reading, 1.) because this novel's really short [I don't think the plot could stand up to many more pages] and 2.) because this is more of a mystery more than an actual thriller.

So - if your sister, whom everyone had doted on, and who had been the center of the universe, had died... and then you got a letter from her saying that she'd been nowhere near the fire that supposedly killed her, how would you feel? How would you feel when it turned out that the girl who came to your house the day and hour that she said she would WASN'T YOUR SISTER? How would you feel if it seemed like your mother thought she was? Hmmm! This is all very...suspicious... I give this book a good solid B+. The ending was simply too confusing to give it a better grade than that, but for a mystery-within-a-mystery, it worked fairly consistently well.

A. Fortis reviewed middle grade historical novel,
The House on Hound Hill, and it seems like another good candidate for the beach bag. Says Fortis, According to the cover, this is the author's first book published in the U.S.; if this is indeed the case, then we've been missing out.

I randomly picked up this gem of a mystery/suspense novel while browsing in the YA section of the library, and I'm having this feeling that it's one I'll be checking out over and over if not caving in and buying. It's got everything I want from a thrilling read, and many of the characteristics I want in my own novel: a compelling, likeable, and normal main character; a creepy setting with secrets to hide; a historical component which impinges on the present through supernatural means; tight plotting that makes it impossible to put down; and just a hint of the gross-out factor.

In this novel, the main character moves with her mother and brother, post-divorce, to an old house in a very old area of London. She senses something strange about it from the beginning, but isn't able to put her finger on it. As she gradually encounters strange and ghostlike figures in her house and around the neighborhood, and gets to know its unsavory history during the last Great Plague in the 1600s, she finds out just why the area (and her house in particular) seem so creepy to her.

I wholeheartedly give this one an A.

Check 'em out!

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