Haunted by Barbara Haworth-Attard
Finished: Aug. 28, 2009
First Published: Aug. 18, 2009 (Canada only)
Genre: paranormal, thriller, mystery, magical realism
Dee spread feed over the ground, calling, "chick, chick."
Reason for Reading: I love a good ghost story. I received a review copy from Harper Collins Canada. Qualifies for the Canadian Book Challenge. Qualifies for the RIP IV Challenge.
Comments: Set in the Bruce Peninsula area of Ontario at the time that the soldier's had returned home from WWI, Dee and her Grandmother live in a small cabin at the outskirts of a rural town. Grandmother is the town's midwife and also the one people come to for "medicines" when they are sick. The town does have a doctor, has for some years and business isn't what it used to be but some folks still would rather trade goods with Grandmother than pay cash to the doctor. Fourteen year-old Dee has been raised by Grandmother as her own mother ran off with a travelling show when Dee was only a few months old, her father is unknown. Otherwise the only special thing about Dee is that she sees dead people.
Her 'gift' which she keeps secret even from her Grandmother tests her endurance when a former friend of hers' bones are found up on the mountain approximately four years old. Everyone thought she'd run away with a boy at the time and now people are remembering other girls who 'disappeared' in the past. It isn't until a new girl is found dead that a Detective from Toronto is sent for to find this serial killer in their midst.
This is the first book I've read by Barbara Haworth-Attard, though she's written many juvenile and YA novels. I highly enjoyed it. I found the serial killer mystery to be tightly written and fast paced with plenty of clues but not easy to figure out at all. I had it narrowed down to two suspects from the start but wavered between them for a while. I think the intended audience will have a great time with this mystery.
The supernatural element was an added bonus to an already strong straight-forward thriller plot. The spooky ghostly episodes certainly added to the sense of fear surrounding the plot. This brings about a second theme that runs through the book of Dee wondering why she sees these spirits and wonders about her Grandmother's special gifts and why her mother ran away and has never come back. Overall, a very intricate plot that carries many threads and combines the paranormal with reality with the ease of an accomplished writer.
I enjoyed everything about this book. Dee is a fun character, fully developed, as is her Grandmother who has a hard shell that Dee occasionally cracks and sees underneath. The only thing I found disappointing is the stereotypical use of a mentally challenged character (which appeared to be downs syndrome to me), who was called "retard" by the nastier folks in town. This character is introduced first but as soon as the girl's bones are found it's obvious that stereotypically the "retard" is going to come under suspicion of the murders. I expected it from the get go. And indeed the author fell into that trap. It's typical of the time period but something a little less obvious would have been more original.
Otherwise, I read this book throughout a day, thought it was a brilliant serial killer mystery for this age group and loved the paranormal aspect. Recommended!
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