Lewis Barnavelt, 11 years old and recently orphaned, has been settling in at his uncle’s house. It’s 1949, about a year since we saw him last (in The House With a Clock in Its Walls) and he has made a new friend – a tomboy named Rose Rita.
When Uncle Jonathan opens a trunk owned by his father (Lewis’s grandfather), Lewis, a lover of history, is bequeathed with his grandfather’s lucky coin. When he begins wearing the coin around his neck, weird things start happening to Lewis. He gets strange postcards in the middle of the night. He suddenly overcomes his cowardice and punches a bully. He fights with Rose Rita and becomes suspicious of her. He gets the feeling that someone is following him.
Lewis is coming undone but, thankfully, he has a few people who really care for him. There’s Rose Rita, his uncle Jonathan, and their neighbor Mrs. Zimmerman, a widow with magical powers. When they finally connect Lewis’s odd behavior with an old murder mystery, they realize he’s in trouble and they spring into action to help him.
The Figure in The Shadows (1975) is another creepy children’s mystery by John Bellairs. It’s exciting, scary, and sweet. Lewis is a nice kid but, being pudgy and weak, he has trouble with bullies and wishes he was as brave as his friend Rose Rita (a girl!). In this story we see him try to eat healthier and begin an exercise program but, when he doesn’t see immediate results, he gives up. It’s easy to understand and feel for Lewis, even when he does stupid things.
My daughter and I really enjoyed listening to The Figure in The Shadows together. Recorded Books’ audio edition, three hours long and narrated by George Guidall, is excellent. We liked this one a little better than the previous book because the ending was not as hasty. We’ve already started the next book, The Letter, the Witch, and the Ring.