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Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Skeleton Key by Tara Moss. Sydney:Pan Macmillan, 2012

Meet Pandora English. She has come from small town Gretchenville to live in New York City with her great-aunt Celia, a witch, in a haunted mansion on Addams St in the unmapped suburb of Spektor, which is perpetually hidden behind a tunnel of fog. Celia was a fashion designer to the stars in 1940s Hollywood and still has such treasures as Lauren Bacall's coat and Ingrid Bergman's favourite dress to lend Pandora. She also has some tenants who live there as long as they behave, but Pandora has learned to carry a bag of uncooked rice to distract any misbehaved vampires- sorry, Sanguine. The V word is considered un-PC.

Apart from being "the Seventh", a member of her family who can communicate with dead people, Pandora has normal girl troubles. There are two gorgeous guys in her life, but one is dead( the ghost of a Civil War soldier) and the other has had his memory of her erased in a previous novel. She has a job at Pandora fashion magazine, but her boss has been coming in after dark and was last seen counting rice grains, something new vampires do, obsessively.

What about the mad scientist who built the mansion and was apparently burned up by spontaneous combustion? Are his dabblings in necromancy about to bear zombie fruit in modern New York? Read and find out!

I haven't read any of Tara Moss's books before and this is the third of a YA series, but I didn't have trouble following it. If anything, there is perhaps a little too much explanation of what happened before. There are also a number of things that may, perhaps, be important in a future novel, but I couldn't see why they were necessary in this one. For example, the gorgeous Jay Rockwell, whom Pandora had dated in a previous book but who has forgotten her, reappears but doesn't do a lot. In fact, both young men - and they are men, not boys - are strangely passive. Jay does show his attraction to her and ask her out, but that's it. He seems to be there only to express Pandora's need for normality, which can be difficult when you're living in a spooky mansion right out of The Addams Family, are the subject of a prophecy and hang out with ghosts and vampires.

Still, I found it a relaxing read, very easy to slip into after a long, exhausting day sorting out teen troubles. I had a giggle out of such elements as Great Aunt Celia's silent undead chauffeur Vlad, wondering if he was that Vlad - in Aunt Celia's home, nothing would be too surprising. I enjoyed the notion of obsessive compulsive vampires - that particular piece of folklore is genuine, by the way, with suspected vampires having been buried with seeds to keep them too busy counting to get out of their graves. Just think, you could manage without the stakes and holy water if you wanted to escape, simply take a bag of rice. The suggestion that it's only new vampires affected that way may be only Tara Moss, and is understandable - how can you write about scary vamps if humans can escape them merely by throwing rice?

There was a gentle humour in this one that I liked very much and it's not difficult reading for reluctant readers.

This book goes into my library next week, to see how the girls like it.

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