The Midnight Library, Volume VIII: The Deadly Catch. By Damien Graves. Scholastic. $5.99.
There have been many tales of the dark side of life, of places where evil runs rampant, where everyday lives are as steeped in depravity as more-familiar everyday lives are filled with pleasantries. The whole idea of darkness existing alongside the good is as familiar as Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. But if split personalities are nothing new, Tom Becker’s Darkside is nevertheless a book that feels new, because it is about the split personality of a city, not a person. “Many years ago, during the reign of that hag Victoria, the authorities decided to clean up the streets [of
The Midnight Library is now in its eighth volume, offering far more formulaic horror than Darkside provides. These are reliable, mildly spooky books written under the pseudonym Damien Graves by a number of authors. In the case of The Deadly Catch, which gets a (+++) rating, the stories are by Allan Frewin Jones, who has contributed to this series before and handles its basics well. The title story here is about two boys who go kayaking, get into mysterious trouble involving something in the water, think they have been rescued by a passing boat, but find out otherwise. “The Trap” is a rather silly piece about what would happen if mice became intelligent, banded together and turned the tables on humans – nothing that hasn’t been done many times before. “Sticks and Stones” has been done before, too: girl buys something in a mysterious store that has disappeared when she goes back; that something (lip gloss, in this case) turns out to have magical powers; but the powers involve hurting people; and eventually they are turned on the girl herself. As always in The Midnight Library, it is not enough to be a basically good kid – something bad’s gonna get ya anyway. That’s the main chill factor in The Deadly Catch and its predecessors. It’s not much, but young readers looking for a touch of a scare that arrives quickly and can easily be forgotten will find this latest book as effective as the earlier ones.