Brilliant middle-grade horror reads are not something that I find easy to come by which is a shame as children do have an appetite for the unexplained, ghostly tales and things that go bump in the night. What Lives in the Woods is the second book that I have read by Lindsay Currie, my first journey into her spooky mind was the brilliantly written Scritch Scratch. I had high expectations for another spine-tingling, heart-hammering read and Currie did not disappoint in what I can only describe as an absolute nightmare of a summer vacation…
Ginny is not impressed to be spending the summer in Saugatuck on the shore of Lake Michigan, particularly as it means missing a Mystery Writing Workshop. Renovation expert dad has been commissioned to renovate the legendary Woodmoor Manor and has whisked the family away for a month long vacation.
The 1930’s mansion is famous amongst the local residents for all the wrong reasons and terrifying creatures are rumoured to lurk in the surrounding woodland. It isn’t long before Ginny is experiencing strange happenings; a mannequin with a mind of its own, a ticking sound in the walls, shadowy figures that turn the air icy cold and a bewitched typewriter are making the stay anything but relaxing. Things are bad, like really bad and Ginny needs to solve the mystery before something terrible happens…
Full of suspense, What Lives in the Woods is an atmospheric slow-burning thriller that haunted from me start to finish. As soon as I stepped foot into the town of Saugatuck the hairs on the back of my neck slowly rose and the goosebumps made themselves known. Despite being described as a ‘quaint little town’ by mum, I was not having any of it. Rumours of ‘Hitchhikers’ - mutant creatures from a scientific experiment gone wrong - that will grab onto your car and ride back with you as an unwanted souvenir adding further fear.
With all of the haunted house vibes, Woodmoor Manor is the perfect place for a spooky story. The deserted roads that lead to it, the dense forest that surrounds it, the imposing and ominous multi-roomed building, the foreboding sense of unease and dread upon entering it, everything just screams ‘BAD THINGS HAPPEN HERE’. Luckily there’s a plucky protagonist on hand to try and solve the mystery of the manor and to make it a place that the tourists to and residents of Saugatuck will want to visit rather than avoid at all costs. Wanna-be writer Ginny is the perfect ghost-hunter for this paranormal mystery. Convinced that there are strange goings-on and determined to work out exactly what, she finds allies in her brother, Leo, and regular vacationer to the area, Will.
This is not full on fright-fest, what Currie does is make you feel uncomfortable for the entirety of the read. I was gripped by the unknown, the unexplained events and Ginny’s doubting of herself that all ramp up the tension throughout and kept me racing through the pages. Just like Ginny, I immediately sensed Woodmoor Manor was not a good place to be and I was ready to pack up and leave before the car had been unloaded.
Currie delivers just the right amount of creepiness to keep you reading under the covers with the light on but won’t send kids to bed with nightmares - perhaps with the exception of the mirror scene which is straight out of a horror movie. Reading this late into the night was the not best idea, particularly when my reading was stopped by a strange shuffling noise followed by a loud thud on the roof - cue racing heart and senses on full alert (one can be explained by my wife, the other, I have no idea).
Recommended for 9+.
With thanks to Lindsay Currie and Sourcebooks for the advanced reader copy that was received via NetGalley.