This new horror tale for older children is much more than just a scary story. It explores the themes of loss, grief and mental health in a genuinely frightening way but also celebrates Jamaican folklore.
Visiting relatives with his mum in Jamaica, after the tragic loss of his father, Tyrese finds it extremely difficult to overcome his negative thoughts and low mood, despite the constant delicious offerings from Grammy’s kitchen and the kind attention of his cousin, Marvin. What’s worse is his Grammy’s tiresome tales of ‘duppies’: spooky spectres that, for reasons that Tyrese refuses to believe, require the scattering of rice about the estate every night just to keep at bay.
Soon, though, Tyrese notices that there really are unusual and inexplicable things happening to him. He is haunted by genuinely terrifying ghosts, which are perfectly described to the effect that readers will find it impossible to discern if Tyrese is being haunted by duppies and other ancient ghouls, or if his grief is somehow causing him to lose his grip on reality.
Rose delivers real hair-raising moments of horror. The scariest characters are kept hidden until absolutely necessary, and a hot, damp, earthy atmosphere is created to suffocate readers.
Tyrese enlists the help of Marvin and a new friend, Ellie, to try and find the answer to the unbelievable goings on. They find themselves delving deep into the mystery of nineteenth century experiments upon dead bodies that blur the line between science and fairy tales, evoking some classic horror tropes in an original new setting.
Though a little too much exposition happens via Grammy and cousin Marvin discussing what they know from old spooky stories, a thrilling pace is sustained and there are lots of agonising cliff-hanger moments at the end of chapters. However, the most compelling aspect of The Haunting of Tyrese Walker is the terrifying premise that children who are hurting are more vulnerable to the clutches of evil spirits. Increasingly, Tyrese loses grip on reality and, even more frightening, he begins to lose his memories, too – including those of his beloved father. As his feelings of pain and loss intensify, the frequency and severity of his demonic visitations increase, and the effect on the reader is heart-wrenching.