The Wicked Deep

320p. S. & S./Simon Pulse. Mar. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481497343.
Gr 9 Up—A wickedly chilling debut about ghosts, witches, love, and revenge. Each summer, the small Oregon town of Sparrow celebrates Swan season, a month where tourists flock to the town believing that the spirits of three witches inhabit the bodies of local girls and drown young men. The deaths are all too real, even if the ghosts may not be, and it's a season that Penny Talbot would much rather avoid, particularly since her father's disappearance. But when a handsome stranger shows up in town with secrets of his own, Penny is drawn into a centuries-old revenge in order to protect him. Ernshaw reels in readers as expertly as her ghostly witches draw their unsuspecting victims into the sea. Chapters illuminating the history of Swan season and the town of Sparrow are interspersed with Penny's story, effectively providing necessary exposition and weaving the tense atmosphere that invades Sparrow like a heavy fog. When the drowning begins, readers, much like the townspeople will start to question characters' motives as the hunt for the Swan sisters unfolds and Penny races against time to protect her new beau. The summer solstice brings a haunting and bittersweet conclusion to events that may leave some readers wanting more. Moments of clichéd writing, including food-dependent descriptions of characters of color, mar an otherwise strong debut.
VERDICT Fans of ghostly romance such as Kendare Blake's Anna Dressed in Blood will find much to love in this eerie but less action-packed mystery.

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