The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street
by Lindsay Currie
Aladdin Books, 2017
Middle Grade (8-12 and up)
As soon as she arrives in her new home, Tessa notices the odd electrical fluctuations and currents of cold air and her brother starts talking to a new friend that only he can see. But she meets a boy right off the bat who brings her instantly into a new cadre of friends. Andrew, a soccer jock, introduces Tessa to Nina, Richie, and Cassidy. But Cassidy seems moody, and put out by the new girl’s sudden appearance.
For fans of John Bellairs and Dan Poblocki, An Incident on Shady Street nails the genre of scary stories for younger kids (middle-grade/age 8-12). Lindsay Currie’s wording is captivating and flows quickly into the story that takes the reader deeper and deeper into a mystery about the death and burial of a girl who’s grave site is said to be haunted.
Mysterious drawings that appear in Tessa’s sketch book grow more detailed, a painting in the hallway seems to grow more dreary, and now her brother says his ventriloquist’s dummy has been talking to him, which all add up to a haunted house in her mind. When she admits it to her friends, the quiet twin, Nina, seems to know about Tessa’s house and its history… and maybe its secrets.
I stare at the picture on the wall as we pass. This time it looks even darker, more somber than it did earlier. The petals on the flowers seem almost… wilted. Strange. I remember bright red blooms on the flowers, not dark, wrinkled ones.
She reveals that Tessa’s house, in fact, their entire neighborhood– was built atop a not-quite completely relocated cemetery. Poltergeist activity?
Meanwhile, Cassidy is not her usual self, and her gloom begins to infect Tessa, making her question how much she is really accepted by her new group of friends. Cassidy’s scorn becomes a mystery of its own.
Then… wait for it… the creepy dummy finds its way into Tessa’s bedroom one night and starts crying real tears while repeating the word “Graceland.” And it doesn’t mean where Elvis lived… it means the cemetery where all the relocated bodies went to.
Tessa enlists Nina’s help in learning about the house, but they get more than they bargained for when the grave site of a six year old girl at Graceland Cemetery– a girl who never truly existed– reveals the same statue that is being sketched in Tessa’s pastel book. During a pop-up lightning storm, the statue disappears from her haunted tomb!
I knew it was Inez. I could tell from the way my skin got all prickly and the airs on the back of my neck did their thing. There wasn’t any crying or door rattling, but she was there. I could feel her.
Tessa believes the ghost of Inez Clarke is following her, trying to tell her something, when she discovers a note hidden behind a fake brick in her new house’s fireplace. But the sketch is marked with initials that do not match. The sudden lightning storms become more frequent, and tension among the friends begins to grow…
I found the atmosphere of the book reminiscent of the spooky mystery books by Peg Kehret and Wylly Folk St John that I used to read during the summer as a kid. There is a lot of reassuring talk about friendship, so it’s a safe bet for younger or more sensitive readers who like the idea of horror, but really just want a good gothic mystery.