A spooky old house and a strange painting spell trouble

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 31 August, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 31 August, 2008, 12:00am

The Master of the Fallen Chairs

By Henry Porter

Published by Orchard Books

ISBN 978 1 84616 624 2

If you see a chair that's fallen over, are you tempted to pick it up? Most people are. There is something unsettling about a chair that has been tipped over. Chairs are meant to be upright, their four feet firmly on the ground.

A chair that has been knocked over usually means something has gone wrong.

The fallen chairs in Henry Porter's brilliant new novel are an intriguing starting point to a truly great read that will grip anyone who loves quality storytelling.

The House of Skirl is a spooky old mansion set deep in the countryside, miles away from anywhere. In one of the dark rooms, there is a vast, gloomy painting of the house and, on closer look, it includes 11 figures meeting their deaths.

One is falling from a window; another is drowning in the waters of a raging stream.

In front of the house are 13 chairs - 11 of them have been knocked over, echoing the people dying in the painting.

When will the other two chairs fall over and who will die to topple them? The painting will not be complete until all the chairs have fallen.

When his mother dies, the only relative 13-year-old Kim has to turn to is Colonel Drago. The colonel owns the House of Skirl, so Kim must make the scary dwelling his new home.

From the first day of his stay, Kim is aware of unexplained noises and movements in the house.

Skirl is a spooky place that does not welcome newcomers. Kim is soon unnerved by things he cannot explain. Rooms move from their original positions and passageways lead to different destinations at different times of the day.

Cryptic messages suddenly appear in the dust and distant voices whisper in the shadows. Skirl seems to be alive.

A few months after Kim's arrival, another newcomer turns up at the house. Igthy Ma-tuu Clava, a native of the Pacific Islands, has travelled from the other side of the world to announce that he is a member of the Drago family.

The last survivors of the Drago line are now gathered together in the House of Skirl and two remaining chairs in the painting upstairs are waiting to fall.

Henry Porter is a successful writer of adult thrillers and The Master of the Fallen Chairs, his first youth fiction novel, perfectly mixes elements of mystery, suspense and adventure.

It is one of those rare books that gets into your head and refuses to be dislodged - an excellent and compelling read.

John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com.