“The Ghost Prison” by Joseph Delaney, illustrated by Scott M. Fischer
A job well-done can be surprisingly satisfying.
You know that’s true even when you hate the chore. You can scream about dishwashing but when it’s done, the kitchen looks great. You might hate yard work but when you’re finished, you can see your awesome progress. You grumble about homework, but when it’s over – ahhhhhhhh.
Then again, some jobs stink from the start and never get any better. And in the new book “The Ghost Prison” by Joseph Delaney illustrated by Scott M. Fischer, young Billy Calder’s job went from bad to worse… to dangerous.
He needed the money.
It wouldn’t be long before Billy Calder got too old to stay at the Home for Unfortunate Boys. Orphans like him were sent away at 16, and when that happened, if he could keep this new job, he’d have enough to rent a small room of his own.
But not if he continued to be tardy.
He hadn’t asked for the late shift at the prison. He didn’t want to be anywhere near the old castle at night, but that was where he’d been assigned, and his topsy-turvy sleep schedule was hard to get used to. Billy expected to be scolded when he got to work late, but he didn’t expect to be paired one night with Adam Colne.
He’d heard plenty about Colne, a “mountain of a man” with a nasty reputation. Despite his fierce appearance, though, Colne was actually a nice bloke. He explained that Billy was assigned to the night shift because Long-Neck Netty had specifically asked for him.
Netty, Colne explained, was a ghost.
Then, before a shocked Billy Calder could ask any more questions, Colne rushed off and Billy had to hurry to catch up. That was when Colne stopped to tell Billy two important things: never leave your keys in a lock, and never… ever step foot into The Witch Well. Feeding the prisoner there was the most dangerous task of all, and Colne was the only man to do it.
That suited Billy just fine. He never wanted danger. He only wanted enough money to rent his own place and, for a few weeks, he was content with the night shift.
And then Adam Colne took sick, and the only one left to do his job was Billy Calder…
I was impressed with “The Ghost Prison.” It’s properly scary, with the prerequisite creepy castle, barbaric-looking jailer, malevolent spirit who may be hovering nearby, and an innocent young lad who encounters all of the above.
Did I say it’s scary? Yep, Delaney sends shivers up the spines of his readers practically from page two, and the chills only get chillier as we learn what Billy Calder faces. Add in the horrifying illustrations by Fischer, and you’ve got a story that’ll keep the nightmares coming.
One warning: this book gets pretty intense in places and may be too much for the easily-frightened. For younger teens who can handle fear, though, “The Ghost Prison” is a nicely satisfying tale.
View publishes Terri Schlichenmeyer’s children’s book reviews weekly.