Harper & Row.
80 pages. $12.95.
Ages 9 and up.
In this story told by a 10-year-old boy, the relationship he has with grandfather, EDB, is powerfully described. They "make things" together in the garage, they listen to Yankees baseball games, they learn from each other as they become loving friends. When the grandfather has a heart attack, the boy is left to puzzle about what is happening and to realize what an important part his grandfather plays in his life.
He is feeling helpless and alone when Dooley, the nephew of the powerful and respected nurse, comes to keep him company. Dooley comes with a startling idea -- soul switching. The first question is, "What animal does your grandfather favor?" When they decide he looks most like a turtle, the plan is to find a turtle, paint "EDB" on its back with nail polish, fix Grandfather's indigo silk tie to it, and then kill it. Peanuts (his grandfather's nickname .. for him) is horrified at the idea of killing a turtle, but his grandfather's life is in question. Let the magic soul-switch begin!
Bruce Brooks is a talented writer, and his voice as the 10-year-old boy is so believable that it seems autobiographical. The incidents with Dooley will entertain young readers and keep them in suspense, and the grandfather-grandson relationship will remind them of a favorite adult in their own lives -- or someone they wished that they knew.
Whitley Strieber, whose last few works have been mediocre UFO books, now tells his most thrilling tale of a parent's worst fear -- the kidnapping of a child. Billy Neary is a normal boy who is looking forward to his 13th birthday. He loves his younger sister, Sally, and their parents adore both children. Their life is a quintessential American family picture -- until Barton Royal meets Billy at a video-game arcade.
Royal is every mother's nightmare. He is a 44-year-old, overweight, deranged individual who kidnaps young boys and imagines he is their father. Once he encounters Billy, he becomes obsessed with making him his next victim. Royal breaks into the Neary home late one night and attempts to take Billy but fails. He returns a short time later and is successful in snatching him, but makes it look as if the youth has run away on his own. Barton and Billy trek across the country from the town of Stevensville, Iowa, to Barton's squalid home in California's Hollywood Hills. Billy's parents and the police are not far behind.
AMr. Strieber realistically plays out his scenario with believable characters and thrilling suspense all the way through the book. From its beginning to the final confrontation, "Billy" is a taut, gripping thriller.
Snare of Serpents.
373 pages. $19.95.
Until Davina Glentyre turned 16, she had a pretty sheltered life, living with her father and mother in turn-of-the-century Edinburgh. Then her mother dies and her father brings in a new governess. Shortly thereafter, her father mysteriously dies and Davina is charged with poisoning him.
CThe trial ends in a jury verdict of "not proven," but to Davina the judgment is tantamount to a guilty verdict. She leaves Scotland to start a new life in South Africa. Davina first stops in London, where she is befriended by Roger Lestrange, a South African businessman with an ailing wife. When Davina arrives in South Africa, the Boer War is about to begin. South Africa turns out not to be a fresh start for Davina but a reminder that she cannot escape her past.
"Snare of Serpents" is a dense and complicated novel. Victoria Holt, who has written 28 other historical novels, knows how to keep the plot moving, but there are a couple of flaws that keep this book from being a successful novel. For all the turmoil in her life, Davina is a surprisingly dull character, and a large number of coincidences strain credulity. But the novel's momentum and authentic settings kept my interest.