Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Ghosts go 'boo!' in time for Halloween

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With Halloween approaching, what could be more appropriate than books featuring ghosts? Toronto author and publicist Evan Munday first introduced his circle of unlikely sleuths in The Dead Kid Detective Agency (2011). In his second book, The Dead Kid Detective Agency: Dial "M" for Morna (ECW Press, 293 pages, $12 paperback), October Schwartz marshals her disinterred troops to solve the mystery of how Morna was murdered in 1914.

Munday writes in a style that is tongue-in-cheek, with sly asides and sometimes distracting comments. As October gets messages on an unconnected phone in a haunted house, her living friend, Yumi, gets into trouble in her job as the school's noon-hour DJ. When she's also the target of racial slurs, October and her unearthly colleagues have another mystery to solve.

The school scenes are realistic and effective, leaving one to wonder if this is where Munday should concentrate his talents. However, lovers of the supernatural, especially this month, may prefer the presence of the cemetery residents. Good for ages 9-12.

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Youngest readers (4-8) will enjoy Scaredy Squirrel Prepares for Halloween by Montreal author and artist Mélanie Watt (Kids Can Press, 64 pages, $19 hardcover). In his usual style, Scaredy gives directions for everything from costumes to snacks on a Halloween theme.

How do you throw a no-scare Halloween party? What are the least-threatening Halloween goodies? Do you want to dress as a hero or a villain? Scaredy Squirrel has all the answers.

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For older readers who enjoy the paranormal, Gail Gallant, who divides her time between Grey County, Ont., and London, England, has written a decidedly spooky story in Apparition (Doubleday Canada, 274 pages, $15 paperback).

Seventeen-year-old Amelia Mackenzie is heartbroken when she learns her best friend, Matthew, has died in an old barn, supposedly by suicide, but when she visits the barn she finds she can see Matthew's ghost.

When she discovers there have been a number of unexplained deaths in that same location, she sets out to uncover and destroy the evil presence that haunts the place Matthew died.

In the process of her investigations, Amelia meets Kip, who threatens to replace Matthew in her affections. But can he compete with Kip's ghost, who continues to haunt the old barn, and Amelia's heart? Lots of romance and unrequited love in this young adult thriller.

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For the story that will definitely keep you awake at nights, however, try Asylum (HarperCollins, 310 pages, $20 hardcover) by California author Madelaine Roux.

When 16-year-old Dan Crawford enrols in a New England prep school for the summer, he's prepared for some different classes, but not for murder and madness.

Dan discovers the dormitory of the school was a former sanatorium, or in the language of the past, a lunatic asylum. When he and his new friends Abby and Jordan are drawn to explore the locked-off sections of the old building they are introduced to horrors they have never imagined.

Moreover, these strange visions seem to relate to their own emotions. But when one of the students is found murdered, they know they need to uncover a decades old mystery.

Making this creepy tale all the more chilling are real pictures taken from old files of people, places and experiments in actual former sanatoriums. The book ends with a suggestion that there may be more episodes to follow. For ages 14 and up. And do lock the doors before you read this one.

Winnipegger Helen Norrie is a former teacher-librarian. Her column appears on the third weekend of the month.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 19, 2013 A1

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