The Beast Under the Wizard’s Bridge by John Bellairs & Brad Strickland
The Beast Under the Wizard’s Bridge (2000) is the eighth novel in the LEWIS BARNAVELT series for middle graders which was started by John Bellairs in 1973 and finished up by Brad Strickland after Bellairs’ death in 1991. I’m listening, with my daughter, to the excellent audio editions by Recorded Books which are narrated by George Guidall.
Remember that scary car chase scene, I think it was in the first book The House with a Clock in its Walls, where Lewis, Rose Rita, Uncle Jonathan, and Mrs. Zimmerman, were saved when they crossed a bridge that the bad guy couldn’t cross? Well, in this story, the city has decided to destroy that old bridge.
Uncle Jonathan is clearly upset by this news which, in turn, makes Lewis scared (it’s not difficult to scare Lewis). There’s something magical about that bridge, and something very secret, too. Uncle Jonathan and Mrs. Z will not explain things to Lewis and Rose Rita so, of course, they start investigating on their own.
As you’d expect, this leads to all sorts of dangerous situations for the two kids, but both Lewis and Rose Rita exhibit great courage by doing the right things even when they’re afraid. As the mystery gradually unravels, we learn the history of the bridge, meet horrible monsters (including tentacled ones), and learn about comets and H.P. Lovecraft’s mythos.
The villains in The Beast Under the Wizard’s Bridge might be the stupidest ones we’ve met yet. They make their evil plans where other people can hear them, sign their real names on the library cards of the books they use for research, and write down all their dirty deeds in a diary. But even with such dumb villains, the story is terrifying and contains some scenes that are quite disturbing.
Lewis has never been self-confident and he is shaken again when he overhears his uncle say something that Lewis misinterprets to mean that Jonathan doesn’t want him living with him anymore. Ever since his parents died, he has never felt completely secure, so this really rattles him. The resolution to this subplot is sweet.