The Haunting Of Drearcliff Grange School is the second book Kim Newman has written about a fictional girls school, a cross between St Trinians and either Hogwarts or Professor X’s Academy For Gifted Mutants. Like all Newman’s work, it’s a glorious mashup of B movies, comic books and characters like Dr Shade that Newman made up himself. What a talent, to be able to build a mashup from your own work…
I haven’t read the previous book (yet) but that wasn’t necessary to understand the story. It’s an adventure for four girls, banded together as the Moth Club, each with different skills, embroiled in an inter school contest that’s a mad treasure hunt around 1920s London.
That segues into strange supernatural horror, as Amy, the protagonist, is pursued by the nightmarish Broken Doll, and even after maddening battles with Dracula’s coat and a return to school, she can’t fight off the Broken Doll.
Into this mix Newman adds more supernaturally talented girls, an assassin borrowed from Arthur Conan Doyle, and then a shift first into a boarding school drama of secrets and teenage relationships, before ending in a climactic fight.
Towards the end, things start to get so over egged that it’s hard to follow what’s going on; it’s been a wild ride up to that point, or perhaps I’m so exhausted that I can’t follow things. There’s perhaps slightly too many different schoolgirls to keep track of and I struggled there.
I’d also started off reading it to the girls. The first ten to fifteen pages are fine for a 6 year old – it’s a rip-roaring adventure – but it’s a bit too dark for anyone before their teenage years after that. So I’m glad I didn’t read it all to La Serpiente and Destroyer.