Sunday, September 25, 2016


More YA horror from Brad Strickland, using John Bellairs' characters. This time Lewis Barnavelt and Rose Rita Pottinger are facing a horrific situation...they are being forced to perform in the school's talent show. Talking it over with Uncle Jonathan and Mrs. Zimmermann, Lewis has the idea of doing a magic act, and they visit a local museum of stage magic (that's under construction) for assistance and ideas. While perusing the library there, Lewis finds guidance, and Rose Rita stumbles on a strange document, a scroll that was the last will and testament of a female magician/faux-spiritualist named Belle Frisson. Rose Rita gets a paper cut from the scroll...and the drop of blood turns into a spider!

This turns into a fun adventure with Rose Rita falling more and more under the influence of a malevolent spirit, and the two visit a strange magician's cemetery in a nearby town. (The Gorey frontispiece shows a photo of Belle Frisson and an image of the cemetery that I just love.) Belle's marker is a tall column that is capped by a stone sphere...that turns slowly, one revolution in about six weeks. (That gives me a macabre shiver.)

This delves a bit more into Rose Rita's personality, as we see her becoming withdrawn and sullen toward Lewis and the others, and Strickland smartly puts a supernatural spin on normal adolescent behavior. I will criticize it for having a few clumsily-inserted character with some of Lewis' classmates suddenly having speaking parts, but I found out that these were contest winners who had their names used in the story. Uncle Jonathan and Mrs. Zimmermann are fully involved, not kept on the sidelines, which makes a good change.

The final confrontation with Belle Frisson is memorable and spooky, and I wish there had been more about her background and personality; she's a bit of a cipher. But overall, it's still good fun and I enjoyed it immensely.

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