CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 23 . . . . February 17, 2012
Sinister Scenes. (The Joy of Spooking, Bk. 3).
P. J. Bracegirdle.
New York, NY: Margaret K. McElderry Books (Distributed in Canada by Simon & Schuster), 2011.
314 pp., hardcover, $18.99.
Motion pictures-Production and direction-Juvenile Fiction.
Horror films-Juvenile Fiction.
Missing persons-Juvenile Fiction.
Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-12.
Review by Kim Aippersbach.
“You’re trying to tell me that you are Ethan Alvin Peugeot?” Joy cried for what might have been the third time. She was no longer sure anymore. The gloomy room had begun spinning, and she had been forced to take a seat by the bed to avoid falling down completely.
“Actually, I was never fond of the name Ethan, and never used it other than in my work,” the man explained. “Ethan was my father’s name, you see. He was a terrible brute. My mother, his dear wife, died in childbirth, something for which he endeavored to punish me accordingly. His all-consuming anger finally drove me from home at age twelve, and I narrowly escaped with my life, whereupon I began wandering the country. Later, when I became an author, I began using his name in the hopes that it would irk him to see how his hated son had nonetheless thrived and made a name for himself despite his father’s efforts to destroy him.”
“After years of drifting, I settled in Spooking, calling myself by my middle name, Alvin. It was here that I began writing. Perhaps thanks to my experience with my father, the elder Ethan, I found myself constantly drawn toward darkness. And the town, handily, offered no shortage of strange and murky events to inspire me.”
Sinister Scenes is the concluding book in P.J. Bracegirdle’s “Joy of Spooking” trilogy. Reading the first two books is necessary to understand the third. In Sinister Scenes, Joy Wells finally learns all the truth about the mysterious horror author Ethan Peugeot and his connection to her hometown, Spooking, and to the once-villanous but now helpful adult, Phipps.
A movie of one of Peugeot’s books is being filmed in Spooking, and when the starring teen actress goes missing, Phipps arranges for Joy to be cast in the lead role. The other star, Teddy Danger, is Phipps’ old bandmate who betrayed him and went on to become famous. During filming, Teddy Danger becomes possessed by the spirit of a witch and goes on a murderous rampage. Phipps saves Joy from Teddy Danger’s axe, and Danger runs away. Joy learns that Phipps is suffering from a curse laid on his grandfather by this same witch. Then she finds out Phipp’s grandfather is Ethan Peugeot and that he is still alive and has been living in Spooking all along. He was the mysterious groundskeeper at the asylum in Book 2, and the magical pool had kept him from aging. Without the pool waters, he is dying, but, before he dies, he tells Joy how to end the curse.
The plot of Sinister Scenes is convoluted and disjointed and centers more on the adult characters than on Joy. Joy’s role is merely to uncover the interesting story about author Peugeot, his grandson Phipps, the curse, and how it ruined their romances. The exciting scene with Joy being threatened by an axe murderer is a relatively small part of the novel.
The writing is sometimes humorous but suffers from an excess of exposition and far too much use of the past perfect tense. The point of view jumps confusingly between many characters, including some who have no important role in the plot. The setting is enjoyably spooky, but there is little actual suspense. Bracegirdle has created a potentially interesting set of characters and events, but readers in the target audience will have difficulty following the plot and will be frustrated by the long-winded narration.
Kim Aippersbach is a freelance editor and writer with three children in Vancouver, BC.
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