cover image The Watcher in the Shadows

The Watcher in the Shadows

Carlos Ruiz Zafón, trans. from the Spanish by Lucia Graves. Little, Brown, $18 (272p) ISBN 978-0-316-04476-9

In this exciting, if somewhat over-the-top Gothic thriller, originally published in 1995, 14-year-old Irene Sauvelle, her younger brother, and their widowed mother relocate from Paris to the coast of Normandy in 1937. Madame Sauvelle has been hired as housekeeper and secretary at Cravenmoore, the mansion of the kindly, but reclusive genius Lazarus Jann, one of the greatest toymakers in the world. Irene, to her delight, soon finds a boyfriend and kindred soul in Ismael, a handsome young fisherman, but in the wake of a brutal murder, Irene and Ismael discover that Jann is not what he seems and that mysterious dangers haunt both the mansion and the surrounding forest. Zafón’s pre-WWII French setting is nicely realized, and his romantic leads are entirely believable. Unfortunately, Jann—mad scientist and demon toymaker rolled into one—is too much, a character seemingly drawn straight out of Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffmann. There are plenty of thrills and chills, however, and this book should please readers who like to be scared, but aren’t looking for overtly graphic violence. Ages 12–up. (June)