The Doom of the Haunted Opera by John Bellairs & Brad Strickland
The Doom of the Haunted Opera (1995), the sixth book in John Bellairs’ and Brad Strickland’s LEWIS BARNAVELT series for middle grade readers, has best friends Lewis and Rose Rita back together again after having separate adventures in the previous two novels, The Ghost in the Mirror (Rose Rita) and The Vengeance of the Witch-Finder (Lewis).
The adults are away — Uncle Jonathan and Mrs. Zimmerman have gone to Florida to execute the will of a friend of theirs who was a magician. While they’re gone, Lewis and Rose Rita are busy with a school project — they’ve decided to report on their town’s defunct opera house which was built by Rose Rita’s grandfather. As they explore the theater, they learn its history, hear about a mystery associated with it, find an unknown musical composition hidden in a piano, and experience some weird events that might be supernatural.
When they give the newly discovered opera to their school’s music teacher, and the composer’s grandson happens to show up and offer to help them perform it, the entire town gets involved. The mayor becomes excited and supportive, parts are cast, rehearsals begin, the old opera house is renovated, and even school is canceled.
Lewis and Rose Rita suspect there’s something screwy going on and they are both experiencing bad dreams. This time, unfortunately, they do not have the help of Uncle Jonathan and Mrs. Zimmerman. In fact, when they try to get in touch with them by phone (collect calls, how quaint!), they realize their entire town has been cut off from the outside world! They are on their own!
Brad Strickland continues to entertain and frighten my daughter and me as we read the novels he’s added to the late John Bellairs’ LEWIS BARNAVELT series which began with The House with a Clock in Its Walls in 1973 (now a major motion picture). While creating these new stories about Lewis and Rose Rita, Strickland is careful to honor Bellairs’ characters, even the minor ones such as Jailbird the whistling cat, who makes an appearance in this installment.
Strickland adds a couple of new recurring characters to The Doom of the Haunted Opera and they feel right at home in this story. I am certain that Bellairs would approve. Strickland has never toned down the fright. The kids are dealing with a necromancer in this story and there are some terrifying scenes.
Recorded Books’ audio edition is 3.5 hours long. We love the narration by George Guidall.