Short horror stories are all about a burst of tension and shock endings and The Wrong Train does it well [Review]

Horror novels packed tight with shocks and scares have long been a popular form of teenage read, and never show signs of losing their appeal

John Millen |

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The Wrong Train

By Jeremy de Quidt

Published by David Fickling Books

ISBN 978 1 910200 81 0

Horror novels packed tight with shocks and scares have long been a popular form of teenage read, and never show signs of losing their appeal. Young adults, along with all other readers, love to have a good fright every now and again. So it’s surprising that collections of short horror stories are not published for YA readers more often than they are.

British author Jeremy de Quidt is changing all that. And with The Wrong Train he has come up with a masterly collection of horror tales. Lights down! Door locked! Head under the bed sheet! What happens when a boy takes the wrong train will scare even the hardiest of readers.

It is quite a difficult storytelling task to build up tension and deliver a shock ending in just a few pages. And there is always the problem of the reader perhaps not finding the next story as effective as the last, but de Quidt has no problems with any of this. He cleverly links his eight chilling tales with an ongoing narrative linking the stories. This is a clever way to keep the reader turning the pages.

It is quite late at night, and it’s dark. A boy rushes along a station platform to catch his train minutes before it pulls away. We’ve all done it. Suddenly as the train pulls out of the station, he realises that he’s caught the wrong train. No problem. He will get off at the next station and catch a train back in the opposite direction. There is nothing to be worried or scared about. Or is there?

It isn’t long before the train pulls up at the next station along the line, and the boy alights. But the station is empty, and the boy doesn’t recognise it as any station he’s seen before. To the boy’s concern, his phone is out of power, and there doesn’t appear to be anywhere he can go for help.

He sits down on a bench and starts to think what to do next. An old man emerges out of the shadows and sits next to him. He is a stranger, but he has stories to tell, and the young boy has no option but to listen.

De Quidt’s eight stories all spring from everyday events like taking a car trip, babysitting, getting used to a new baby in the family, or playing silly games at school. De Quidt turns these situations on their heads and turns them into nightmares.

The Wrong Train is very effective at doing what the author sets out to do. It scares! It might not be bedtime reading but it is certainly inventive and has a good balance of both girl and boy characters. But definitely not a fun ride for passengers of a nervous disposition.

John Millen can be contacted on [email protected].