Tony Abbott is known for his Secrets of Droon series, a fun-loving fantasy ensemble for the younger set. He’s also written several standalone novels and other series.
As far as I know, The Haunting of Derek Stone is the author’s first foray into the supernatural/horror field. All four books in the series came out in rapid succession, so fans didn’t have to wait long to get the full story of Derek’s adventures.
Abbott usually begins his stories with a bang, and this first book, City of the Dead, is no exception. First-person narrator Derek Stone is riding the train with his dad and older brother when it wrecks and falls into a river. After reading his Droon series, I have to admit that I was taken aback by all the tension that filled those pages. Abbott keeps the readability in place, though, and young readers will plow right through the prose, but it’s not going to be the same fun read they’re used to in the Droon books.
Abbott steps off into the creepy and weird without holding back. Losing his family is just the first of Derek’s problems. I was immediately sympathetic with that, but when Derek’s older brother Ronny “miraculously” reappears, I started getting creeped. Ronny just wasn’t himself, and I kept waiting for the uglies to pop out of the closet and go for Derek’s throat. That doesn’t take long.
In an effort to understand everything that’s going on, Derek starts an investigation into the supernatural and soon discovers that sometimes the dead come back. The novels kind of bill themselves as zombie tales, but they’re more like stories of extreme possession. The story about the dead prisoners is more than enough to rivet young readers to the chair, and I found I was turning pages a little more intently than I’d expected to be.
The story is set in New Orleans, and I love the covers. After having been to the city, it was easy to imagine all the scenes that Abbott describes in his book. There’s something naturally creepy about New Orleans at night, even without dead folks roaming the streets.
Regular Droon readers might need to know that they’re in for a rather different Tony Abbott this outing. The language and pacing of the story is familiar, but the landscape and the twists and turns of the tale are decidedly different. Readers who might now be too old for the Droon books will want to go back to this favorite author for a new look at his stories. And they’ll probably haunt the book stores and libraries for the next three books.