Tagline: “No swimming. No surfing. No haunting.”
Premise: Siblings Jerry and Terri (yes!) Sadler are psyched to spend a month of their summer with their distant cousin Ben and his wife Agatha at Ben and Agatha’s beach house. And when they hear rumors of a cave dwelling ghost that’s been haunting the beach for hundreds of years, things get really interesting. Jerry and Terri’s new friends, a trio of children who share Jerry and Terri’s last name, convince Jerry and Terri that they ought to trap the ghost in his cave so he can’t skeletonize the beach’s living inhabitants anymore. (That’s a thing he does, according to these Sadlers.) However, and this is twist number one, it turns out that Jerry and Terri’s new friends are the ghosts and the guy in the cave is trying to thwart their attempts to kill Jerry and Terri. He’s an expert on the occult and spirits, which is convenient, because it means he can explain to Jerry and Terri how to trap the dead Sadlers in the cave. Jerry and Terri succeed and tell Ben and Agatha about their triumph over the ghosts–and, in twist number two, it turns out that Ben and Agatha are ghosts, too. And then it’s over! Good ending! (Also, dogs can sense ghosts and Terri makes grave rubbings and the number of minute details this book includes boggled my mind. But that’s off the point.)
Creepiness factor: Low. It’s obvious from the first time Jerry and Terri encounter the alleged ghost that he’s very much alive, and obvious that something is up with those weird kids when Jerry and Terri see their gravestones. The kids claim those are the names of their ancestors, but that doesn’t hold water, does it? Is that a pun? I think so.
Signature Stine moment: Our favorite simile returns!
“Slowly he curled a bony, gnarled finger. ‘Come here.’ His voice was a dry whisper. Dry as death.”
What does that even mean? I don’t know, but I like it.
Accuracy of title: There are ghosts, and they live along this beach. I’ll buy it.
Moral of the story: When you see gravestones with your newest acquaintances’ names on them, chances are those are their gravestones and they’re ghosts, no matter what flimsy explanation they provide. And they’re going to want you to become a ghost, too. So, you know, avoid them.
Overall rating: 6.5/10. It would’ve been a 5.5, but I liked the second twist, which I actually didn’t see coming. And the protagonists weren’t unlikeable, and there were no worms in sight, so really, it’s a vast improvement over what came before it. You know what? I’m kicking this up to a 6.5. Kudos, Sir Stine! Keep up the great work!