Published August 2012 Random House
From the publisher:
The Devil Walks . . . But the devil can make no headway if he has no help. We must invite him in . . .' Raised in secrecy by a mother everyone thinks has gone mad, Daniel's only link to his past is the intricately built model of the family home - High Gates. The dolls' house is perfect in every detail. As Daniel is reunited with the last remaining member of his family - his 'uncle' Severin, who bears an uncanny resemblance to a sinister wooden doll he has found hidden in the house, he begins to suspect that this vicious, haunted puppet of a figure has a chilling influence, bringing cruelty and spite in its wake. Now Daniel's very life is at risk as his uncle is determined to get his hands on the figure . . . The menace builds throughout in this deliciously creepy Gothic tale.
This book is a 19th century Gothic tale, full of sinister characters, imposing ivy covered mansions and hidden evils. At first glance you could think that this is a book that would be suitable for middle primary readers, but you would be wrong. Don't let the small illustrations at the start of each chapter or the fact that Anne Fine usually writes for younger readers fool you, this is a dark and sinister story that is most definitely aimed at an older reader.
Daniel has spent his whole life believing that he suffered from a dreadful disease that leaves him bed bound. When a nosey neighbour notifies the village doctor that there is a boy living in the house, the doctor removes the boy and his mother is sent away. After a quick going over, the doctor confirms that there is nothing wrong with Daniel.
The big wide world is a wonder to Daniel, sunsets stop him in his tracks, cows have him memorised for an age, but it's his skills with people that surprise the doctor. Daniel has no problem interacting with the doctor and his family, which seems odd, as Daniel has had no contact with anyone except for his mother. The reason, Daniel explains, is the dolls house. Daniel spent many lonely nights playing with the dolls and the dolls house, which is in fact an exact replica of his Mother's childhood home.
When playing with the dolls house with Sophie the doctor's daughter they find a doll hidden away. A doll who has two sides, One way up he is a young boy, tip him upside down, and it's the same boy, but now with the look of an older man. This new doll seems to control their games, and the games turn quite nasty when he is involved.
This is where the creepy starts, and it just gets creepier. The doctor had tracked down Daniel's mothers house, High Gates, and also her brother, Daniel has an Uncle. Part two of the book starts when Daniel is sent away to High Gates and his Uncle, Captain Severin. Daniel does not want to be at High Gates, his Uncle has severe mood swings, one minute jovial and animated, harsh and angry the next. Added to this Daniel starts to learn about his mother's childhood, and he finds that she was far from the quiet, cautious woman he grew up with. Something happened here to turn her into that person, and Daniel begins to find out what happened in this house that caused the change.
This house is cloaked in mystery and death and when Daniel spends time with house keeper Martha and gardener Thomas, Daniel starts to unravel the secrets that this house holds, and
This is a compelling story, a real thriller, and most definitely a page turner. It also feels like a more gently story about family, being loved, loss and belonging. If you didn't know when this book was written you would assume that it was written 100 years ago, the language is perfectly pitched to reflect the time when the story is set.
As I mentioned earlier, don't think this book is for younger readers. There is a suicide, and Daniel is a witness to this. There is also suggestion of dark magic and real evil which surrounds the death of the inhabitants of High Gates. This is most definitely a move away from the vampire, witch and werewolf horror we see on the shelves today. It is a literary Gothic horror novel which will appeal to real 'readers', who are looking for something different.
Who will like this book: Girls and boys age 11+
Read it if you like: Spooky stories
Read it if you like: Spooky stories