by Joe Hill
Cover Artist: Illustration by Gabriel Rodriguez
Review by Harriet Klausner
William Morrow Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780062200570
Date: 30 April 2013 List Price $28.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
The 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith with the plate NOS4A2 drove from town to town picking up children and taking them on special rails to Christmasland as his little helpers. On the journey the kids turn from precious to monstrous with their initial mission to help 140-year-old Charlie Manx clean up any possible connection to him especially by parents. In each generation, Manx selects an assistant; his current one is Bing Partridge. None of the children return home and the police fail to realize that a horrid serial killer-kidnapper is the cause.
In the 1990s, a young Victoria "Vic" McQueen, the finder, meets Maggie the librarian, who uses Scrabble pieces to see the future. Maggie warns Vic to avoid a Rolls Royce Wraith. Instead Vic encounters the classic car, but she escapes. She tells the police who are hunting for a serial killer.
Two decades later, Victoria and her husband, Lou, have a small son. Manx never forgot the one who got away and led to his being locked up in an asylum in Englewood, Colorado. He has been patient as he waits for the right moment, which in December 2008 has arrived. Driving his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith, he picks up Vic's son, Wayne, who understands his initial mission.
The key to this scary horror thriller is that the cast members, especially those possessing paranormal skills, seem real. The audience accepts Vic riding a bike on a nowhere bridge mostly in New England; Manx the Pied Piper abducting children and taking them to a special amusement park where he steals their souls; and Maggie using Scrabble tiles like no one else has ever done before. The rest of the key cast is also developed to enhance the plot especially the children turning into killers, as well as caring Lou worried about his distracted wife; converting Wayne as a means to get at the one who got away; while Bing as a true believer feels he is doing the Lordís work by assisting Manx.
Filled with non-stop action (even when the villain seems comatose), fans will appreciate Joe Hill's exciting but frightening storyline about what can happen to the children even though it is not a new premise (see Pinocchio). Still readers will anticipate the confrontation between Vic (sans bike) and Manx (with Rolls) although the climax is not as strong as the journey getting there.