________________ CM . . . . Volume VI Number 5 . . . . October 29, 1999

Grave Secrets.

Sylvia McNicoll.
Toronto, ON: Stoddart Kids, 1999.
228 pp., pbk., $9.99.
ISBN 0-7737-6015-6.

Subject Headings:
Ghost stories.
Moving, Household-Juvenile fiction.
Detective and mystery stories.

Grades 5 - 8 / Ages 10 - 13.
Review by Betsy Fraser.

*** /4


The sun streamed through my window and I woke up with my mouth hanging open. I sucked back some deep breaths of the hot, humid air. My heart pounded hard at my chest and I felt wet and clammy. Only a dream, I told myself, but somehow I couldn't believe it. I glanced at my watch. Noon already. So I grabbed a quick shower to rinse off the faint odor of chlorine I could still smell.
Nicholas Dilon and his family have just moved into a new house, a house, he finds out, that not only backed on to a cemetery but was both a home for troubled boys and a murder site. The entire neighborhood seems spooky to Nicholas. Things only get worse when Nicholas starts having strange dreams and meets Mrs. Dobroski, who keeps calling him Sasha. As Nicholas discovers more about the murders, he feels that he is being haunted and that he must do some investigating to keep the past, with its horrible events, from repeating itself. The main character is 14, although he comes off as quite a bit older, especially with a subplot where he spends time trying to impress and date a female lifeguard. The haunting in the story starts off slowly. Only as Nicholas discovers more of the secrets surrounding the past and his house is he able to start putting together what happened with the earlier deaths. Nicholas uncovers the past only when he finds out what is going on around him, including meeting Mrs. Dobroski, who had been a friend of the murdered boy, and some local boys who are planning to rob a house.
     This book starts off fairly slowly, but builds to an acceptable climax. There are many superfluous details, and, in trying to present rounded secondary characters, McNicoll occasionally slows down the narrative. This book would be enticing to children who like ghost stories, mysteries, or stories about kids caught in a situation they do not seem capable of handling by themselves.


Betsy Fraser is a librarian with Calgary Public Library.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364