School Library Journal
Gr 4–7—Zack, 13, is still seeing spirits… and they see him. He has more or less come to terms with them, though, and he thinks that he has defeated the worst the spirit world could throw at him. But that was before the spell was broken, releasing 13 ghosts, the entire Ickleby clan. Zack's family moved the Icklebys' coffins and imprisoned their spirits decades ago. Now, with the curse broken and their ancestor offering up his body for possession, they have the ability to exact their revenge on Zack for his family's deeds. This novel speeds along at a breakneck pace, hauling readers along as Zack and his friends (and his dog, Zipper) attempt to dodge and defeat the vengeful, rather inept, spirits. The action-packed short chapters and vivid imagery will make this book an easy sell to young teens and reluctant readers, even if they haven't read the previous books in the series.—Heather Miller Cover, Homewood Public Library, AL
In the fourth book in the Haunted Mystery series, Grabenstein continues the saga of 11-year-old Zack Jennings, who is burdened by his ability to see ghosts. Things have gotten better since he's moved in with his father and stepmother, following the death of his troubled and unloving biological mother. But on Halloween, when the dead can "reach through the veil" separating them from the living, a family of ghosts called the Icklebys seeks revenge on Zack's family over a longstanding feud. To protect Zack, his witchy aunts, Hannah, Sophie, and Ginny, have also come to visit, adding their eccentricities and knowledge of their family's supernatural legacy to the mix. Grabenstein treads familiar territory with his strain of goofy humor, but his exploration of darkness and malevolence—Zack's recollections of his mother's abuse, her tortured ghost, a wicked Ickleby patriarch who has "no qualms about killing children," and a character who is seduced by the forces of evil—set off the cartoonish atmosphere. It's a well-plotted story with high-stakes consequences that should insure fans' continued investment in Zack's adventures. Ages 9–12. (Aug.)
Children's Literature - Uma Krishnaswami
Part of the "Haunted Mystery" series (other titles include The Crossroads, winner of the Agatha and Anthony Awards, and The Smoky Corridor), this title continues the saga of young Zack Jennings, who has the discomfiting ability to see ghosts. In this case, he can see the thirteen ghosts of the Ickleby family who were imprisoned in a crypt. "The Icklebys hated the Jenningses," the text informs us with bland certainty. When the Ickleby ghosts break free of their prison, it's up to Zack and his friends, Malik and Azalea, to restore order. There's a certain black heart, its spell now inadvertently unleashed upon an unsuspecting populace, that must be found and smashed, or it's all over. The urgency is driven by brief chapters and tersely dramatic text. It's heightened considerably as the escaped Icklebys and their descendent Norman, whose inadequacies they prey upon, proceed to embark on a round of vengeful antics. Zack's great-aunts, Hannah, Sophie and Ginny, who were responsible for the initial incarceration of the spirits, help to keep the magic well stirred up. Zack's own dead mother, a thoroughly unpleasant memory for him, adds personal context and motivation. It's the wackiness, however, that distinguishes these books from other middle grade ghost stories. Grabenstein's zany humor succeeds in relieving the horror of corpses, ghastly deaths, and other mayhem, and imbues the narrative with a kind of appealing tongue-in-cheek quality. Reviewer: Uma Krishnaswami
Blood both spills and tells in a small Connecticut town when 13 bad-seed specters from the same family escape from their crypt one Halloween.
They range from an 18th-century highwayman to a murderous Capone-era gangster dubbed "Crazy Izzy" and were all confined in the same tomb years ago thanks to spells cast by Zack Jennings' three great-aunts. Eleven-year-old Zack's inherited ability to see ghosts may be a mixed blessing at best, but it comes in handy when the 13 spectral Icklebys break out, seize control of their nerdy but increasingly willing descendant Norman and embark on a vengeful crime spree. Fortunately, most of the Icklebys turn out to be easily sidetracked, and equally fortunately Zack has allies on both sides of the dirt (as the author puts it), from the aforementioned great-aunts (weird sisters indeed, flying in from their Florida retirement home with a full stock of witchly goods and exorcism chants) to a headless cat ghost. As in Zack's three previous Haunted Mystery outings (The Smoky Corridor, 2010, etc.), the pace never flags. Through flurries of ultra-short chapters, events spiral to a suspenseful climax, and the mix of corpses and comedy add up to a faintly macabre tone that isn't dispelled even by the end's just deserts and happy outcomes.
A grave tale indeed, if not entirely serious.(Supernatural adventure. 10-13)