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Frozen Charlotte by Alex Bell

Frozen Charlotte is the third novel written by Alex Bell who has seven books to her name, some of which belong to the horror genre.  Frozen Charlotte, a young adult novel, is a creepy, strange, mysterious ghost story.  It is a terrifying read for much of the novel especially once the reader intuits just what is actually afoot regarding one of the characters.

Following a frightening and bewildering incident with a ouija board cell phone app in a cafe, Sophie's best friend, Jay, drowns in a freak biking accident on the way home.  Dealing with her grief over Jay's death and determined to find out exactly what happened that night, Sophie travels to the Isle of Skye to stay with her uncle and cousins, Cameron, Piper, and Lilas, over vacation while her parents go on a long planned trip to California.  By the end of the novel this inciting mystery will be eclipsed by the story of the disturbing evil that is source of the nail biting horror.

Sophie fears she and Jay unleashed the ghost of her long dead (and possibly vengeful?) cousin, Rebecca, who froze to death one night at the bottom of a cliff near the family home.  However, Rebecca's death is shrouded in mystery and is far more terrifying, cruel, and cold hearted than it initially appears to be on the surface.  Rebecca's death was merely the beginning of a baffling run of unfortunate incidents for the family.  In short order their mother suffered a nervous breakdown from the grief over her then youngest child's demise and was committed to a psychiatric hospital; Cameron suffered a debilitating burn to his right hand in a strange accident that ended his promising music career even before it began.  Lilas suffers from a phobia of bones that nearly killed her when she tried to cut out her own collar bone; and uncle James paints strange portraits of Piper as a mermaid.  Strangely the only Craig child who hasn't suffered an injury is Piper.

Upon Sophie's arrival at the family's isolated boarding school turned family home on the bluffs of Skye, she finds them fanatical about keeping the gate locked lest another family member fall to their death from the cliffs.  Sophie is also puzzled by odd family dynamics.  There's inexplicable tension between Cameron and Piper.  Cameron appears determined to maintain an aloofness from Sophie, and he remains distant, difficult, and prickly even as he repeatedly warns Sophie away from the family and the house.  In hindsight the depiction of Cameron's behavior is obviously intended as a red herring especially when examined in comparison to Piper's bright, positive, seemingly innocent demeanor that is later revealed to hide a cruel streak a mile wide.  Meanwhile, both Piper and Cameron try to warn Sophie about the other sibling and yet the astute reader will be inclined to believe Cameron's warnings regarding Piper.  She's too perfect, clearly manipulative, and hides a coldly cruel streak aimed at those she's supposed to love.  And Piper paints Rebecca as cruel and unhinged even as it becomes clear that Piper lies, indulges in cruel acts for her own entertainment, and hides these transgressions so chillingly well.

It is clear the family is hiding something.  And the house with its phantom children and haunted, macabre, Victorian corpse dolls (you read that right) that scratch, whisper, and sing in the dead of night from the empty room adjacent to Sophie's harbors a chilling malevolent force.  All of which make for terrifying, sleepless nights for Sophie, not to mention her waking nightmares populated by the deceased best friend who's never far from her thoughts.  These elements combine for a foreboding feeling as the reader worries about Sophie's mental state--lack of sleep can play tricks on the mind and dull judgement especially when compounded by grief and guilt.  The story gathers momentum as it barrels towards a nerve-wracking and terrifying conclusion.  The truth is chilling, disturbing, and terrifying when it is finally revealed in this nail-biting, highly suspenseful novel.

--Reviewed by Ms. Angie


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