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The Crossroads: A Haunted Mystery

Review

The Crossroads: A Haunted Mystery

Eleven-year-old Zack Jennings knows that not everyone senses the spirits trapped in trees that he does. Luckily he, his father and new stepmother are moving out of New York to North Chester, Connecticut, where his father grew up. Little does Zack know, however, that he also will be encountering sinister spirits all over in the country.

Not only does he think he is moving away from the nasty tree, he is happy to part ways with the ghost of his dead mother in his old apartment. His mother was a mean-spirited woman who suffered a great deal before dying in a makeshift hospital bed in the dining room. Zack can still hear her telling him to stop being silly and making up stories. He is ready for a new start.

While a few of the local boys seem just like some bullies he knew in New York, the strange-speaking Davy is a lot of fun and helps direct Zack on how to build a tree fort. His father even buys him a great dog named Zipper. His stepmother, Judy, is an author of children's books and likes stories. She also wears purple on her wedding day and acts like Zack is a pleasure to be around. Things seem to be looking up for him.

There is still a scary tree on Zack's new property, and a cranky old lady comes every week to leave flowers at the cross nailed to it. She yells at Judy and Zack, warning them not to defile her shrine to "her beloved Clint," even though it is on their property. Davy seems to live in a field and is always appearing without warning. The boys see a group of army men and other strange people around the tree. Bad things start happening there, and the boys begin planning to get rid of the tree.

Judy spots some strange folks herself, including a mysterious man helping her change her tire at night. She decides to investigate what happened to Clint and learns that a bus and car accident years ago killed 40 people at the crossroads by the tree. The bus driver, who lost his life, had the same name as the individual who changed her tire.

The spirits are getting restless as the anniversary of the accident approaches, and the villain in the story wants to become a live person again so he can get his revenge on families of those he thinks wronged him. Others would prefer to let sleeping spirits lie, while Zack and Judy wishes for the tree and all it represents to go away. They might be the only ones who can help both the living and the dead move on.

Chris Grabenstein is an author of adult mysteries, but his first book for younger people will not disappoint. While he is known for his humor, readers should be prepared for many scary twists and turns in this very dark story, which will tie together secrets across grandparents, fathers and sons. Zack is funny and curious but finds his true heart in his battle with evil from living people and ghosts.

Reviewed by Amy Alessio on May 12, 2009

The Crossroads: A Haunted Mystery
by Chris Grabenstein

  • Publication Date: May 12, 2009
  • Paperback: 329 pages
  • Publisher: Yearling
  • ISBN-10: 0375846980
  • ISBN-13: 9780375846984