The Hunting Ground by Cliff McNish

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The Hunting Ground by Cliff McNish

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Category: Teens
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Beautifully written and truly chilling ghost story set in a creepy mansion and featuring lost children, fearsome hunters and echoing nursery rhymes. Late tweens and teens who like a shiver will love this book.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 288 Date: May 2011
Publisher: Orion
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 1444001922

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When Elliott and Ben move into Glebe House with their father, a professional renovater, they don't expect anything other than another short pause in their peripatetic lives. Elliott kind of wishes the family could put down some roots, but there is something to be said for staying in huge mansions with grounds to explore. But right from the start things aren't as they should be. Why does Elliott wake at night, feeling afraid? Why is Ben lying about going into the abandoned East Wing? Who is the old lady with the dead flowers pinned to her dress? And why is the house full of pictures of a previous owner, all with a hunting theme?

When Elliott finds an old diary, some of his questions are answered. It seems Glebe House once belonged to a dreadful man and that his ghost resides there still...

... and he's still hunting.

Explorations of and battles for the soul run throughout all Cliff McNish's books and he is very fond of a good ghost story. But this is the first I've read by him that has really felt like a full-blooded piece of pure haunted house horror. It has all the elements: distracted adults, children used to fending for themselves, long-lost diaries, threatening portraits and a creepy, run-down mansion. It's genuinely terrifying and I can completely understand why there's a NOT FOR YOUNGER READERS warning on the back cover.

Many horror stories are basically hunts, as the malevolent spirit isolates and then traps its victim. And McNish cleverly blends this hunt with the actual and murderous hunts carried out by Cullayn in the narrative. I loved this blending of plot and structure. I also liked the ambiguity of some the characters, especially of Eve and Janey. We're never really sure what side they're on right up until the very end. And I love the way McNish writes - lyrically and poetically, with a real love for words. But mostly, I liked the creepiness and the tension, which ratchets up and up until it's almost unbearable.

If they like ghost stories, they'll love this one.

My thanks to the good people at Orion for sending the book. We also have a review of Going Home by Cliff McNish.

Another very classy and very chilling ghost story is Long Lankin by Lindsey Barraclough, set in post-war Britain. Also recently out is Buried Thunder by Tim Bowler - always a Bookbag favourite.

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Buy The Hunting Ground by Cliff McNish at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Hunting Ground by Cliff McNish at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy The Hunting Ground by Cliff McNish at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Hunting Ground by Cliff McNish at


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