The Hunting Ground by Cliff McNish

Published by Orion Childrens Books.Normally this book may well have been passed over to my daughter to review for booksandwritersJNR, but the cover, the premise and the fact that I was really keen to read it myself, meant that on this occasion I held on to it.

And I’m very glad that I did, firstly as I think it’s probably just a bit too disturbing for my 11 year old to read just yet and secondly, because I thoroughly enjoyed it and some of the images are likely to cause me a few sleepless nights ahead.

The Hunting Ground is set in a huge old crumbling building, Glebe House, and the story centres around a father and his two young sons, Elliott and Ben, who have moved there.

So far, so DIY SOS, right?

Wrong – very wrong.

Pages from a diary written by a young man called Theo start to be uncovered, a ghost story seems to be being told to them through the pages they receive, ghosts linked to an evil hunter called Cullayn.

There are portraits of the man throughout the house, paintings of him celebrating kills of fish, of wildlife and then, within the mysterious East Wing, more paintings are found, images showing the man in pursuit of his prey, tracking people and children within his own hunting ground.

It is a classic ghost tale with all the perfect ingredients – who isn’t petrified at the image of a ghostly young girl?  And if that’s not enough, then what about if she walks the halls of your home, dragging what you hope is a doll, its head thumping on the ground, leaving hair caught in the floorboards.

It’s also a tale of an evil man and of what needs to be overcome to free and finally release the ghosts of the children who have become his victims so that they can move on. But, not before they have been able to help with the secrets of Glebe House, and not before they can be given the chance to help the living to help the dead.

If Stephen King was asked to turn his horror down just a notch to be able to introduce him to a slightly younger audience, I think Cliff McNish has set the bar just about right here.

A cautious recommendation (but check you have spare batteries for your torch before you start reading).

Keith

 

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