By Martin Lederle-Ensign
Those meddling kids in Scooby-Doo never take time to see things from the villain’s perspective. If they’d just slow down for a moment, they might see that sometimes one must dress up like a monster and terrorize innocent passersby for the Greater Good. In The Ghoul of Windydown Vale, opens a new window, author Jake Burt imagines what it’s like to be behind the mask.
Copper Innskeep (three guesses what his parents do for work) is the Ghoul of Windydown Vale. By day, Copper helps his folks run Windydown Vale’s only inn–-an establishment that they had to rebuild after the previous location sank into the mud (mud is a constant threat in this story, almost a character in its own right). By night, Copper dons a fearsome, Jim Henson-esque costume and becomes The Ghoul. With terrible claws, gnashing teeth, and a haunting howl that chills the soul, he prowls the swamps and forests around Windydown. The fearsome legend of The Ghoul encourages travelers to keep to the main road. Coincidentally, this same road funnels wanderers into Windydown Vale itself, where they might purchase wares at the market or spend a night or two in comfort at the inn.
This strange but comfortable life is turned upside down when a traveler and his daughter arrive in town, bringing tales even taller than The Ghoul. Swindles pile up, chicanery rules the day, and it will take all of Copper’s wits to get to the bottom of a deceit that runs as deep as the mud of the Vale.
The Ghoul of Windydown Vale is a delightful, profoundly weird swamp-Gothic mystery story. It has twists and turns like you wouldn’t believe, mild spookiness, budding romance, and an intimate small-town feel that recalls both ‘Salem’s Lot and A Year Down Yonder. Jake Burt knows how to spin a yarn, and fans of Neil Gaiman, Goosebumps, and Eoin Colfer will enjoy The Ghoul of Windydown Vale.