cover image By These Ten Bones

By These Ten Bones

Clare B. Dunkle, . . Holt, $16.95 (240pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-7496-3

This spine-tingling tale by the author of the Hollow Kingdom trilogy features a plucky heroine, a stranger with a dark secret and an angry mob. War has diminished the field of eligible bachelors in Maddie's medieval Scottish village, so when a handsome and talented young woodcarver comes to town as sidekick to a peddler, she's instantly interested. No sooner than he arrives, though, strange things start happening. Maddie fends off a menacing creature during the full moon, the young man is grievously attacked by something with sharp claws and a baby is born with "the mouth of a beast," and soon dies. The superstitious villagers have various suspects—the folkloric Water Horse; a vicious creature who lives in the loch; Lady Mary, the cronish lone inhabitant of the ramshackle castle; and finally, the carver's peddler friend, Ned, who has a taste for drink and a sharp tongue. Ned's murder (and subsequent decapitation) adds a gruesome element to this Beauty and the Beast variant. Maddie knows the identity of the real culprit, and must be willing to risk her life to end its threat. Her devotion to the carver, who is nearly mute and devoid of personality, isn't convincingly established, and the title—an allusion to the fingers of two hands—is also a bit of a stretch. Nonetheless, Dunkle creates a menacing atmosphere for this chillingly good tale. Readers will cheer Maddie on as she wrestles—and conquers—her deepest fears. Ages 12-up. (May)