Ancient mystery works evil magic on newly arrived family

John Millen
John Millen |

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The Glass Demon

By Helen Grant

Published by Penguin

ISBN 9780141325767

This new thriller by Helen Grant for older teens is as good as, if not better than, some of the so-called thrillers heading up the best-seller lists of adult fiction. Grant impressed with her first novel The Vanishing of Katharina Linden last year, and her latest is even stronger and more tightly plotted. Grant knows how to write thrillers that actually thrill and mysteries that give the reader just enough detail to maintain suspense until the last page.

Lin Fox is a 17-year-old student from England whose father, a university lecturer, whisks his family off to Germany where he plans to do research into some missing medieval stained-glass windows. One of the strengths of Grant's talent is character building, and she shines with Lin and her family and the people who come into their lives.

As soon as Lin and her family arrive in Germany, it's clear something nasty is in store. They pass a dead body in an orchard, and in the tradition of good thrillers, they decide to ignore it and drive on. How long will it be before their actions catch up with them? The Foxes move into an ancient castle on the edge of a dark wood, and strange things start to happen.

A tree outside their front door catches fire. A pair of nasty neighbours hurl the severed head of a ram onto their dining table. Lin's baby brother is attacked in his cot while he sleeps. Someone or something wants to frighten the Foxes back to England, but the question is who - or what.

The trouble all seems to stem from the work Lin's father is doing. He has spent a great deal of his career researching the Allerheiligen Glass, a set of missing ancient stained glass windows. He has learned they could be hidden in this part of Germany, and he is determined to find them. It is said the windows are haunted by an evil demon. Lin knows this story is only a legend, but when mysterious deaths and ominous threats begin piling up around the Foxes, Lin struggles to differentiate between myth and reality.

The Glass Demon is a must-read for anyone who likes to be engrossed in the blanket of a suspenseful chiller. The story expertly intertwines ancient legend and a modern family in peril. The scene where Lin confesses all she knows to a priest who just might be involved in the mystery is a masterpiece of suspense writing.

Only one thing lets down this superior thriller, and that is the awful, nondescript cover. Book buyers do judge a book by its cover, and this one does not encourage anyone to read the top-quality tale within. Grant deserves much better than this unimaginative introduction to her outstanding novel.

John Millen can be contacted on [email protected]