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Monday, June 4, 2012

The Legend of the Pumpkin Thief by Charles Day

The Legend of the Pumpkin Thief by Charles Day
Publisher: Noble Romance Publishing
Genre: contemporary, holiday
Age recommendation: 12+
Rated: 4 stars
Reviewed by Snapdragon

As the townsfolk sleep, something creeps into the neighborhood. Hidden in shadows, its presence is as old as time itself, its intent not born of goodness.

Nick, a teenager who fancies himself a detective, wakes to find his carved masterpiece missing. Now a mystery is afoot, and Nick has his first assignment, to find out who or what is snatching up the town’s pumpkins and why.

Unfortunately, as with all great detectives, obstacles stand in Nick’s way—the neighborhood bully and his cronies, and the strange old lady and her dog who share the run-down house at the end of Nick’s block. As Nick investigates, an urban legend unravels . . . .

The Legend of The Pumpkin Thief.

Nick fears the legend as he embarks on the most dangerous adventure of his young life. Collecting clues, getting ever closer to the true nature of evil, he learns that curiosity comes with a high price.

Take two parts scary, one part mystery, and add a dash of delight, and there you have ‘The Legend of the Pumkin Thief.  This YA novel is an unexpectedly fresh take on Halloween, and is sure to both intrigue and thrill readers (and although it says Young Adult, teens on up will find this a good read.)

That Nick, the main character, is himself a dedicated reader immediately helps the reader identify with him. He likes mysteries and when a minor one falls in his lap (who took the family’s carved-out pumpkin?) I was delighted that his immediate inclination was to solve it, just like a mystery in a novel. His suspicions quickly connect the old legend of the town’s pumpkin thief to their own missing pumpkin. And why would anyone steal pumpkins? Well, it turns out they provide an important, if almost unknown service…and everyone’s safety is involved.

The approaching Halloween and familiar activities like costume parties contrast with an actual danger. The horror, unleashed in an orange mist, is something teenage Nick must somehow stop… and mystery fans especially will love that what started as a light-hearted investigation proves both important and dangerous!

Throughout, characters are strong and believable: Nick’s interaction with his family (bratty sister, “unfair” parents) are things we can all identify with, as well. Who doesn’t remember impatience, feeling frustrated or unfairly treated? Who didn’t want to keep reading, rather than show up at the dinner table? Other characters, like the teacher who ran homeroom in military-discipline style, were equally interesting and believable. Unfortunately, brief point of view changes interrupted the flow of the story (conversations among students Lou, Norm, Trevor and Ralph prove revealing to the reader, but sort of plop into the story.) Shifts to Samantha go more smoothly, but this reader couldn’t help feeling the story would have been more cohesive without those changes.

Mr. Day’s style is that of a nice comfortable storyteller. He engages the reader even through backstory. The pace of the novel moves from fast-forward to reflection and back, with ease. This is a super Halloween read.

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