Sunday, October 21, 2018


It's the Halloween season, and THE HOUSE WITH A CLOCK IN ITS WALLS is playing in theaters (I haven't seen it yet, sorry, my budget is tight and I don't get out to the movies much anymore), so it's a good chance to get back to John Bellairs' works.

The Curse of the Blue Figurine introduces his third hero, Johnny Dixon. It's the 1950s, and Johnny is living with his grandparents in Duston Heights, Massachusetts, while his father is in the Air Force in Korea. His mother died a few years before.

In the course of the novel, Johnny makes his first friend in his new town, Prof. Roderick Childermass, a crabby old gent who lives across the street. (Bellairs enjoys these young/old friendships; these days, it would raise eyebrows.) Johnny is also having a problem with bullies at his school, and one day, to avoid them, he ducks into the nearby Catholic church. Feeling mischievous, he sneaks into the basement, and while down in there, stumbles on a hollowed-out book that contains a blue Egyptian-looking figure and a scroll.

The church is supposed to haunted, by the ghost of Fr. Remigius Baart, who supposedly sold his soul to Satan. Johnny is thrilled by his discovery; maybe this proves the legends real? Johnny investigates further, hiding his treasure at home. The figurine, however, turns out to be a replica, and Johnny befriends another older man, a Mr. Beard, who listens to his problems and gives him a ring as part of a joking game.

However, the ring has supernatural powers, and soon Johnny is living in a nightmare.

It's an effective, eerie tale as the ghost of Father Baart seeks some goal through Johnny, and just when you think things are resolved, there's more shocks to be had.

It's a pretty solid tale, although some revelations at the end seem to come out of nowhere. The resolution of the story comes from finding Father Baart's remains in a remote corner of New England, with no explanation as to why they are there.

Still, with its flaws, it's a good solid Bellairs tale, and it kicks off one of his longer-lived series.

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