Ten-year-old Effie narrates this unusual and atmospheric story set in the small loch-side village of Mivtown where the ‘Oldies’ maintain their tradition of throwing a food parcel offering into the loch to appease the monsters who may entice local children into the water. The families of Mivtown have grown up with the legend of the monsters but only the older people seem to really believe in them. Until, that is, a sequence of strange events begins when Effie’s rabbit, Buster, escapes from a locked hutch. Soon after, Effie’s Mum disappears without trace, right after she and Effie have had an argument, and then hordes of slugs keep infesting Effie’s home. Could all these bizarre and unsettling events have anything to do with the legend? Effie and her best friend Finn decide to find out.
The tension builds gradually and effectively in this disturbing story as the appealing narrative voice of confident, determined, yet vulnerable, Effie contrasts with the darkness of the unravelling mystery with its sinister secrets and themes of loss and guilt. As Effie learns that one of the ‘Oldies’ is responsible for her Mum’s disappearance and death and that the monsters of the loch may have been sending the slugs to warn her of danger, she has to cope with feelings of grief and loss as well as guilt that she and her anxious, over-protective mother did not always get on. Effie is sustained throughout by her deep, close friendship with Finn and by the love of family and community. This mingling of mystery and reassurance creates an intriguing atmosphere that will keep readers hooked until the final revelations.
Polly Ho-Yen has succeeded in writing an unsettling book which packs quite an emotional punch in its short length. It will enthral children who respond to its mingling of mystery, scariness, fairy-tale-like atmosphere and realism whilst others may find the issues around Effie’s Mum’s disappearance and death and the unresolved tension between mother and daughter quite disturbing. This is a distinctive follow-on novel from the author of Boy in the Tower.