Still Water by Chris Priestley

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Rating 8.5/10
Essential Halloween reading

Get your Halloween witch hats or scary ghost sheets on for this novel. Still Water is set in WW2 where Rosie is sent away to the countryside by her mother to avoid the bombing of London before it happens.

Rosie thinks her life there will be a new start but her new family hide a dark and terrible secret. This place in the country is so picture perfect that Rosie thinks she will enjoy the countryside but that is until she is collected at the station by Mrs Taylor who she notices seems a bit strange.

Once Mrs Taylor gets her home, she meets her daughter, Mary who takes an instant dislike to her, appearing resentful of another girl being there sharing her mother's affection. She does her best to make her life hell, biting herself then blaming Rosie, as well as telling tales about her and having the other school children in the area dislike her. Rosie soon finds Mrs Taylor believes every word Mary says, which leads Rosie to write a letter back home pleading with her mother to take her back.

Between Mrs Taylor's weirdness and Mary's cruelty, Rosie thinks she has no friends at all, but there is one at school who tries to look out for her and another who is the ghost of a girl who drowned in a pond not far from her new home. When they meet for the first time, she tells her not to tell anyone she is there and there is a good reason for it. The locals call the area The Witches' Pond as it is the site where seven witches were tried and drowned back in puritan days.

Chris Priestley's Halloween novel is eerie enough from the get go with a normal enough setting turning bad when Rosie discovers the truth surrounding her new family. Rosie is a heroine who has enough spirit to investigate what has troubled her since she came to the country and isn't afraid of any consequences. The ghost she meets isn't the scary type, instead she takes Rosie into her confidence, pointing her to a real killer in their midst. Readers will like how intelligent Rosie is as much as how bad Mary is at being the typical nasty girl who is too used to being spoiled as an only child. I felt for Rosie having to exist in such an unhappy home, though once the story unfolds it is easier to understand why. This is essential Halloween reading for October.

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