Friday, October 07, 2011

The Black Heart Crypt by Chris Grabenstein

Halloween. Ghosts taking possession of a relative’s body. A dead mother returning to see her son. Ghostly cats, dogs, and a possessed horse named Satan. And, a raven that communicates with the villain. You might not think Chris Grabenstien’s latest Haunted Mystery, The Black Heart Crypt sounds like a kid’s mystery, but ask your kids if they’re between the ages of nine and twelve. Then, ask those who awarded Agatha and Anthony Awards to the earlier books in this series. The books are kid-tested, mystery lover approved.

Zack Jennings has only lived in Connecticut with his dad and his stepmother, Judy, for about five months, but the eleven-year-old and his dog, Zipper, have had adventures to last a lifetime. Zack can see ghosts, and, this October, it’s even worse when thirteen dead members of the Ickleby family recognize Zack as a Jennings. Zack didn’t really know his father’s aunts, Ginny, Hannah, and Sophie. But, it seems the three women had imprisoned the Icklebys in a mausoleum.  And, the nasty spirits think Halloween is the perfect time to get revenge. If that’s isn’t bad enough, Zack’s dead mother, who always hated him, has found a way to get to her son. It’s going to take a team, Zack, Judy, his family and friends, a trio of cats and Zipper, along with the local librarian and a few ghostly family members, to find a way to combat the Icklebys and their evil plots.

What kid wouldn’t enjoy this chilling thriller? As always, Grabenstein’s heroes are eleven, just what his readers want. They may work with adults who care and understand, but the final solution always comes down to Zack and his friends. Grabenstein tests his ghost stories on kids in schools, and he truly understands how much young people enjoy being scared.

Grabenstein’s villains are perfect. The Ickleby family includes a 260-year-old patriarch who kidnapped kids, rides a black horse, and communicates with a raven. One was a gangster who ran rum with Al Capone. The thirteen family members are evil demons. Kids will love them as villains. And, that villain on the cover? Based on a favorite memory from childhood that my sister and I share with the author, The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh, a Disney movie.

Chris Grabenstein’s books are appropriately formatted for this age group as well. The chapters are short and readable, but they’re brisk, riveting chapters that will keep readers turning pages.

Pick up The Black Heart Crypt now for Halloween reading for you and the young reader in your life who enjoys being scared. In fact, try it yourself. The earlier books in the series have won Agatha and Anthony Awards for Best Mysteries for young people. If you’re young at heart, you’ll love them. My sister and I are big fans of Zack Jennings. The Black Heart Crypt is Chris Grabenstein’s creepiest, and best, Haunted Mystery yet.

Chris Grabenstein's website is 
The Black Heart Crypt by Chris Grabenstein. Random House. ©2011. ISBN
9780375869006 (paperback), 329p.


Chris Grabenstein said...

Thanks for the fun and thoughtful review. I'm glad you and your sister are fans. It's neat to see how many adults love to read YA books. Now all together: "Scare-crow, Scare-crow. The soldiers of the king feared his name..."

bermudaonion said...

I think the kid in me would enjoy this one too!

susied said...

I've been reading these books and find they keep getting better and better!

Put me down as a Scarecrow of Romney Marsh fan, too. I remember seeing that long ago and really liking it.

Lesa said...

Oh, we can sing right along with you, Chris. Good luck with the book. It was terrific!

Lesa said...

I think so, too, Kathy. Love this book!

Lesa said...

Oh, good, Susie. You're going to LOVE this one as a fan of the Scarecrow. Of course, he's the villain in this one. I'm glad you're a fan!