What Lives in the Woods: A mysterious MG haunted house story

What Lives in the Woods by Lindsay CurrieWhat Lives in the Woods by Lindsay Currie

What Lives in the Woods by Lindsay CurrieGinny — or Gin — Anderson is looking forward to the summer writing workshop she’s going to attend with her best friend Erica, in their hometown of Chicago, until Dad upends the family’s plans because of a job. He’d going to restore a century-old house-turned-hotel, The Woodmoor Manor, in Michigan. The family will live there while he works.

This sounds terrible to Gin and her older brother Leo. While Leo is soon appeased by the news that Saugatuck, the nearby small town, has a public basketball court, Gin will not give in so easily. Her resentment turns to dread as soon as they enter the neglected old manor, triggered by the quiet ticking of a clock somewhere in the house. Except, no one else hears it, and Gin doesn’t find a clock anywhere in the place. Her room is lovely, but she is immediately spooked by a voice coming out of the air, whispering her name. That turns out to be Leo, messing with her via the old-fashioned speaking tube that goes from the kitchen to her room—but the next few spooky incidents can’t be explained away by an annoying older brother.

Lindsay Currie

Lindsay Currie

Soon Gin meets Will, who is also summer kid, but who has stayed in Saugatuck for years, and knows the legends about the Manor. He tells her to stay away from the third-floor ballroom. He also mentions legends of spooky, humanoid creatures who inhabit the woods… but Gin’s focus is immediately drawn to the house, especially when all the light bulbs in the kitchen explode at once. There is something in the house, something angry, and it seems to have targeted Gin.

2021’s What Lives in the Woods is a spooky middle-grade book, with young sleuths who have to work together and decipher clues. I liked Gin’s sprightly and snarky narrative voice. Leo develops as a character. The kids’ parents are not dead, neglectful nor incompetent, which I appreciated, and yet it’s up to the kids to uncover the mystery and put things right.

Currie uses some fun old artifacts to flesh out the mystery, like a skeleton key, a gramophone, and a manual typewriter. (I was a little surprised Leo and Gin knew what that was.) I liked the way, once Will and Gin join forces with Leo, his obsession with ghost-hunting shows proves to be useful. I also like how much Gin loves Agatha Christie, though frankly I was baffled by her parents, who kept saying those books were too “scary” for her.

I don’t read middle-grade work. I bought this to give away at Halloween, but after reading the back blurb I decided to give it a try. It’s fun! It’s a good Halloween book, but frankly this is a ghost story for all seasons.

All Ginny Anderson wants from her summer is to sleep in, attend a mystery writing workshop, and spend time with her best friend. But when Ginny’s father―a respected restoration expert in Chicago―surprises the family with a month-long trip to Michigan, everything changes. They aren’t staying in a hotel like most families would. No, they’re staying in a mansion. A twenty-six room, century-old building surrounded by dense forest. Woodmoor Manor. But unfortunately, the mansion has more problems than a little peeling wallpaper. Locals claim the surrounding woods are inhabited by mutated creatures with glowing eyes. And some say campers routinely disappear in the woods, never to be seen again. As terrifying as it sounds, Ginny can’t shake the feeling that there’s something darker . . . another story she hasn’t been told. When the creaky floors and shadowy corners of the mansion seem to take on a life of their own, Ginny uncovers the wildest mystery of all: There’s more than one legend roaming Saugatuck, Michigan, and they definitely aren’t after campers. It’s after her.

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Marion Deeds, with us since March, 2011, is the author of the fantasy novella ALUMINUM LEAVES. Her short fiction has appeared in the anthologies BEYOND THE STARS, THE WAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE, STRANGE CALIFORNIA, and in Podcastle, The Noyo River Review, Daily Science Fiction and Flash Fiction Online. She’s retired from 35 years in county government, and spends some of her free time volunteering at a second-hand bookstore in her home town. You can read her blog at deedsandwords.com, and follow her on Twitter: @mariond_d.

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