A Spectre in the Stones is like a Dean Koontz or Stephen King novel for young adult readers. John Kitchen writes with the same mix of vivid characters, realism and dark fantasy and his main character, Lloyd Lewis, is the same sort of protagonist often found in those authors’ books: a kid trapped in circumstances that have made him sarcastic, suspicious and prone to expect the worst but who has bravery, intelligence and a good heart, qualities which lead him to overcome grave adversity of the paranormal variety.
At 13, Lloyd has already been in a number of children’s homes but Sarsen Hall is not like the rest. Here there is more than just the general lack of love and lax discipline he is used to. This place seems to be caught in perpetual winter and nothing about it feels right. So it is not surprising that soon Lloyd is facing not only bullies among the kids, the staff, and at school, but poltergeists and a seriously scary ghost as well. Luckily, he also finds allies in his fellow housemate Rudi, the gardener Justin and Justin’s former teacher James, a professor of archaeology from London, and he forms a real bond with the troubled Caitlin, who helps give him purpose. Also, he finds a rare power he never knew he had. Now all he has to do is figure out what is causing the chaos and how to set it right.
The scary stuff in this book is not mild. It will be frightening enough for adult readers who enjoy paranormal stories. In addition, the characters are well-written and believable, and their adventures ring true. It is a very British story, but the desolate details of the orphaned children in the children’s homes is unfortunately universal and makes the situation of Lloyd, Rudi, and Caitlin both more poignant and more suited for this type of story. It makes Lloyd’s bravery and brains and determination even more admirable and bonds the reader to the character even more. You want Lloyd not only to succeed in solving the mystery and lifting the curse from Sarson Hall but to find his own happier future as well.
This book is highly recommended for young adult readers who enjoy being scared a bit and for adult readers who like a good paranormal yarn as well.