The Hunting Ground; Cliff McNish; Orion Childrens; January 2012
Book summary (taken from Cliff McNish website):
Cliff McNish sets the tone for this ghost story from the very beginning with an extremely creepy, mysterious and sinister opening chapter. Despite being only 3 pages long after reading it you are left in no doubt that you are about to embark on a chilling adventure which may require you to sleep with the light on in the future.
Brothers Ben and Elliot arrive at the once grand Glebe House along with their Father, employed to renovate the house to its former glory. The house is typical of many old houses; far from quiet once the occupants have retired to bed. In addition to the creaks and squeaks the house is also covered with self portraits of the house’s former owner Vincent Cullyan, each demonstrating his hunting prowess.
McNish wastes no time in starting the series of sinister events that will envelope Ben and Elliot as the story progresses. From the off the house if full of weird noises and strange happenings not to mention the mysterious ‘East wing’ that has a magnetic draw towards it. We soon realise that the dark secret the East wing harbours is utterly chilling.
The majority of the narrative is told to us through the eyes of Ben and Elliot however we are also told parts of the story via a diary written by a previous occupant of the house, Theo. McNish uses the diary to give us the background on what has happened previously in Glebe house, although at times by fitting the diary into the story the flow of the book is lost somewhat.
The story moves along at a fast pace and is full of plot twists, suspense, and mystery. As the reader we never quite know which direction the story is going to go and the book is at times really rather creepy. As Ben and Elliot try to escape from the Ghosts of the East wing we discover a maze of corridors, repeating rooms, hidden passages, darkness and strange noises; it’s the ideal recipe for a horror story and some points of the story will definitely leave you feeling a little on edge.
Just as at the start of the book the end of the book is chilling however it does take a little longer to get there than I feel is necessary. The pace of the book slowed and rather than creating tension it feels more like we are going round in circles. After such a chilling start that delves straight into the action this middle section is a little disappointing.
McNish has created an original and inventive idea for a chilling ghost story here and the book has all the ingredients – murder, suspense, history, a haunted house. Although it might not give you nightmares it will certainly make you look twice next time you look in the mirror late at night.
For more information on Cliff McNish visit his website here