The Black Heart Crypt

Chris Grabenstein. Random, $19.99 (336p) ISBN 978-0-375-86900-6
In the fourth book in the Haunted Mystery series, Grabenstein continues the saga of 11-year-old Zack Jennings, who is burdened by his ability to see ghosts. Things have gotten better since he's moved in with his father and stepmother, following the death of his troubled and unloving biological mother. But on Halloween, when the dead can "reach through the veil" separating them from the living, a family of ghosts called the Icklebys seeks revenge on Zack's family over a longstanding feud. To protect Zack, his witchy aunts, Hannah, Sophie, and Ginny, have also come to visit, adding their eccentricities and knowledge of their family's supernatural legacy to the mix. Grabenstein treads familiar territory with his strain of goofy humor, but his exploration of darkness and malevolence—Zack's recollections of his mother's abuse, her tortured ghost, a wicked Ickleby patriarch who has "no qualms about killing children," and a character who is seduced by the forces of evil—set off the cartoonish atmosphere. It's a well-plotted story with high-stakes consequences that should insure fans' continued investment in Zack's adventures. Ages 9–12. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 09/19/2011
Release date: 08/01/2011
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