By Madeleine Roux
Published by HarperCollins
A novel with a deliciously creepy image on the front and the title Asylum in jagged letters across the top isn't going to be a barrel of laughs. Besides, there's the warning: "Once you enter, you'll never leave" on the cover, just in case there are any doubts about what to expect inside.
And Madeleine Roux's new book delivers everything it says and more. There hasn't been a young adult horror story on bookshops shelves as tasty as this one for quite a while.
As with all good horror stories, the plot starts off with the safe and normal, to lure readers into a false sense of security. Sixteen-year-old Dan Crawford has recently graduated from a high school where he could never fit in. No one there understood his fascination with history and science, and he was labelled a weird loner.
Now Dan is moving on to a summer programme for gifted students at the prestigious New Hampshire College. Facing a new beginning, Dan is eager to meet other like-minded teenagers.
New Hampshire College isn't quite what Dan had hoped. Perhaps the crumbling facade of the dormitory building should have been a clue.
Dan is assigned to the Brookline Dorm, an ancient, spooky building that used to be an asylum for the mentally ill. Dan makes friends with Abby and Jordan, two students who seem to be on his wavelength.
The study programme is interesting and challenging, but it's the Brookline building that grabs Dan's attention. What secrets does this former asylum hold?
The three friends think it fun to sneak around the dark corridors of Brookline at night. They come across a room that once was the asylum office and, to their surprise, discover there are still patient records in the cupboards. It's all great fun nosing around, but soon things start to take a very sinister turn.
Dan starts to receive threatening notes, and has nightmares where he finds himself wandering through Brookline all those years ago when it was an asylum.
When people start mysteriously dying off at the college, Dan is convinced a serial killer from the past is at work. He knows the key to stopping the murders lies in Brookline's difficult past.
Eerie black-and-white pictures and photographs scattered throughout the book add much to the creep factor. Chills and thrills are the thing here, and Asylum delivers both in coffin-loads.
John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com