Eleven forty-seven. Already the train was slowing into Exeter station and my options were dwindling to a big fat nothing. As the platform approached, I wondered for the millionth time if I’d made a huge mistake in coming here. Uncle Jack hadn’t sounded exactly welcoming on the phone. But I’d been so determined to get away from Mum and Paul the four-eyed pillock that I hadn’t let it worry me. Now was another matter. I hoped I’d imagined the coldness in his voice when I’d said I needed somewhere to stay. Forget butterflies in my stomach –they’d turned into giant carnivorous moths.
Published by Chicken House 2013
257 pages in paperback
Summary from Chicken House books*
In Old Scratch Wood on Dartmoor, quarrelling cousins Matt and Tilda find a buried skull. And from that moment black things begin to happen. Birds and animals turn bad, and there are rumours of the return of an ancient curse known as the gabbleratchet. But what can Matt and Tilda do to stop it …?
This debut novel from SCBWI Undiscovered Voices Competition 2012 winner Sandra Greaves is a real chiller. Set on the wilder parts of Dartmoor, it has a deep sense of the landscape and its folklore. This gives richness to a contemporary spooky tale without making it too narrow. (The musical equivalent of this would be one of Seth Lakeman’s eerier songs.)
The story is largely told through two viewpoints – those of city boy Matt and his country cousin, Tilda. There are a few short chapters from the little girl Kitty too. This to-ing and fro-ing makes for different opinions on the same events. All very involving – especially as the voices are quite distinct and there is good deal of humour.
Readers of a nervous disposition could find it terrifying at points – but the suspense is worth it. Whilst I won’t spoil the ending, it does pull all the threads together in something of a dark fable. There’s an underlying psychology I found quite powerful.
The cover design is spot-on in suggesting the kind of novel you’re getting: something gothic in a haunted landscape. You’d need to be a fairly confident reader to tackle all 257 pages, and not too easily frightened (or someone who loves being scared – like me). Ideal for lovers of the supernatural from about ten or so.
*I have only one criticism - I wish the blurb hadn’t used ‘black’ as a synonym for evil.