Book review: Through Dead Eyes (Chris Priestley)

CaptureChris Priestley has a great track record in the horror genre, having released a number of Tales Of Terror books and Mister Creecher for young readers. His latest entry, Through Dead Eyes, takes the tale of a young boy Alex who is struggling with the separation of his parents, and places it in Amsterdam – a city so bright and pleasant on the surface, but with an undertone of something more sinister. It’s easy for anyone to relate to that idea, what with the Red Light District mentioned in the book, and a general feeling that large cities often have that seedy and unknown presence – especially if you’ve never been there.

Priestley has wisely chosen a city that many readers are familiar with but not overfamiliar, which adds to our understanding of Alex – the main protagonist in the book. We spend much of our time in the local cafés, art galleries and museums as Alex gets shown around by Angelien, the daughter of a family friend. Alex is stuck with her due to his father being busy working with Angelien’s mother, which is why they’ve had to go to Amsterdam in the first place. Much of the book is about the developing friendship between the two; complicated not only by her boyfriend Dirk, but troubles Alex has had at home with a girl as well.

Much of the terror in the tale comes from the hotel that Alex and his father stay at, which links to the ghostly story of a young girl Hanna who herself lived there with her father Van Kampen. This seems to be inexplicably‎ related to a mask that Alex purchases while out exploring Amsterdam, and what unfolds is a strange and mysterious experience that Alex dreads sharing with anyone else through fear of being called crazy. This is not just a ghost story but one of personal maturity and learning to cope with change in life, and much of Priestley’s narrative is easy for anyone to relate to because we’ve all been through it.Capture

The horror element is built up well with Priestley taking his time, drip feeding moments of trepidation in amongst the mundane day to day activities of the young Alex. He’s a likeable character, struggling with his own feelings and trying to cope with everything falling apart around him. That’s almost scarier than anything involving the strange mask or any mystery between Hanna and her father, but Alex’s natural curiosity gets him to delve deeper. Is there a point of no return?

Through Dead Eyes has an addictive storyline that keeps dragging you back, much like the mask does to Alex. You can’t help but be curious to see what happens next, not only with Hanna but between Alex and Angelien also. Priestley does a fine job of creating that sense of foreboding and danger where you feel scared but you can’t help but peek into the darkness to see what’s there. If you close your eyes, you’ll see everything just as vividly as Alex does. This is an enjoyable and chilling tale that serves as a great introduction to horror for younger readers and beyond.

Through Dead Eyes by Chris Priestley is available in Paperback and eBook now from Bloomsbury Books.

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