A Skull in Shadows Lane by Robert Swindells

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A Skull in Shadows Lane by Robert Swindells

Category: Teens
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Post-war story of rationing, childhood and the after-effects of war. We loved the way Swindells leads the reader one way at the beginning but is really taking his readers somewhere completely different. First class novel for tween readers.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 240 Date: January 2012
Publisher: Corgi
ISBN: 0552564095

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Longlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2013

The war has ended but life is still pretty for dour Josh and Jinty. Rationing is still in place and it's difficult to get enough to eat, let alone anything that's nice to eat. Most of the Yanks have gone home. And they're about to head into one of the coldest winters on record. Kicking around looking for some excitement, the siblings decide to explore the deserted cottage in Shadows Lane. Even though rumours say the house is haunted, they don't really expect to find anything. So the discovery of a human tooth in lane is rather more than they had bargained for. And when a skeletal face appears at the window, they hot foot it just as quickly as they can...

... but Boney, as they dub the ghostly figure, turns out to be a very different type of secret to the one the children assume. And they still don't realise the sleepy little village of Coney Cley contains another furtive presence, a much more dangerous one.

Ah. I loved this post-war story of rationing and childhood and the after-effects of war. It's beautifully-written, short and to the point, with sparkling, pithy dialogue and a tense plot. The grey world of rationing and hardship is described perfectly and readers will come away with a very good idea of what it was to be a child in days before TV, iPods and the internet. I doubt many of today's children have imagined a school so cold that pupils need to do some exercises before each lesson starts, just so their fingers are warm enough to write. Swindells adds all sorts of little details (and gives a handy glossary at the end) from bulls eye sweets and novelty songs to much more serious things such as Albert Pierrepoint, the famous hangman, and the Nazis' Final Solution. Mostly, though, I loved the way Swindells leads the reader one way at the beginning but is really taking his readers somewhere completely different.

Josh and Jinty begin the story with a ghost hunt, but soon they realise that the living world has as much in the way of horror as any spectral imaginings. It's a tough lesson, but they rise to the challenge and so although this story engages with serious and frightening themes, it's also incredibly uplifting.

Recommended.

Waterslain Angels by Kevin Crossley-Holland is another beautifully written, evocative detective story set just after WWII.

Buy A Skull in Shadows Lane by Robert Swindells at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy A Skull in Shadows Lane by Robert Swindells at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy A Skull in Shadows Lane by Robert Swindells at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy A Skull in Shadows Lane by Robert Swindells at Amazon.com.


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