Haunted Mystery #1
WINNER OF THE 2010 ANTHONY AND AGATHA AWARDS (Best Children's/Young Adult Novel)
One of the TOP 10 CRIME FICTION BOOKS FOR YOUTH (Booklist)
CHILDREN'S CHOICE LIST (Children's Book Council/International Reading Association)
Chris Grabenstein's first book for younger readers is filled with the same humorous and spinetingling storytelling that has made him a fast favorite with adults.
"Have you ever seen a face hidden in the bark of a tree and known that the man trapped inside wanted to hurt you?"
Zack, his dad, and new stepmother have just moved back to his father's hometown in Connecticut, not knowing that their new house has a dark history. Fifty years ago, a crazed killer caused an accident at the nearby crossroads that took forty innocent lives. He died when his car hit a tree in a fiery crash, and his malevolent spirit has inhabited the tree ever since. During a huge storm, lightning hits the tree, releasing the spirit, who decides his evil spree isn't over, and Zack is directly in his sights!
Random House, Hardcover, May 2008, ISBN: 978-0375846977
Random House, Paperback, May 2009, ISBN: 978-0375846984
The Crossroads unabridged audio (CD or MP3) is read by Chris's wife, the extremely talented Voice Over actress J.J. Myers. She won an Earphones Award from AudioFile for her performance!
Read praise for the audiobook here!
Listen to an audio sample from the book!
Come visit my Spookaporium!
Shop for t-shirts, hats and other spooky junk
The Crossroads Trailer
(a spooky one, starring Fred in a cameo role!)
"I just wanted to actually tell Chris how much I loved his book! In 2 days I was finished! I have also been advertising his book to all my friends and even just from reading the back they were hooked! I am doing one of my book reports on it over the summer! HURRY UP AND MAKE THE 2ND!"
—Maddie, Age 11
"Ghosts vengeful and benevolent, evil possession and dark secrets from the past all figure in this suspenseful page turner destined to grab reluctant readers, especially boys, and R.L. Stine fans. When 11-year-old Zack Jennings moves with his father and new stepmother from New York City to rural Connecticut, he becomes the target of a hateful old woman and the ghost of her 1950s sweetheart, now a body-possessing demon bent on wreaking vengeance on Zack's ancestor by murdering the boy. Brief, fast-paced action chapters, tight plotting, several murders and a sympathetic main character keep things moving, as long-buried clues to the mystery of a tragic accident are revealed with some help from kindly phantoms. One friendly ghost in particular may come as a surprise. Fans of the genre won't mind some of the implausibilities; they'll keep reading." (Fiction. 10-12)
"Chris's book was great! Tell him it was amazing! Wonderful! And another great word that is more than spectacular! It was really scary too!"
—Riley, Age 12
"If Grabenstein's first YA book were to receive a one-word review, the word would be Coooool, a term that applies in a variety of waysfrom the book's cover image (a face peering out of the bark of a tree) and its hitchhiking, hot-rodding ghosts to its creepy atmosphere, believable story, and suspense that engulfs readers from the very first page. Even the characters are cool, including contemporary, doo-wop,
and even Dickensian. Grabenstein, who has won the Anthony Award for his adult mysteries and whose writing career encompassed work for the Muppets, brings a great sense of timing to this mystery-fright
ride. Zack Jennings, a kid uprooted following his mother's death and his father's re-marriage, sees a leering face in a gnarled tree in the park near New York City's American Museum of Natural History. A
move to Connecticut doesn't extricate Zack from evil apparently lodging in trees. Readers soon learn that at a crossroads just behind Zack's new home there's an oak tree capable of branching out into
murderand a number of dissatisfied ghosts that prey on passing motorists. An absorbing psychological thriller (the ghost of Zack's malevolent mother plays a part) as well as a rip-roaring ghost
story, this switches points of view among humans, trees, and ghosts with astonishing elan. Expect lots of requests."
—Connie Fletcher, BOOKLIST STARRED REVIEW
"Normally I am not a very fast reader, but if I am reading a good book, I read faster. Your book got me reading at the speed of light! I love scary stories and mysteries, and especially fantasies. My friend loves to read, and she is only in 4th grade. I gave her a copy of the book for her 9th birthday and she thought it was so good, she read it in five days!"
"A well-told ghost story with plenty of twists and chills. Eleven-year-old Zack believes that his mother, who died from cancer, haunts his New York City apartment, continually disapproving of his behavior. He is immensely relieved when Dad marries Judy, a kind woman, and they move to Connecticut. Unfortunately, Zack cannot seem to escape the dead. Shortly after arriving in North Chester, they meet Gerda Spratling, the last survivor of the town's founding family. The abrasive woman mourns the loss of her fiancé, making a weekly pilgrimage to the crossroads outside Zack's yard where a massive oak marks the spot where Clint died almost 50 years ago. When Zack sees this tree, he fears that something evil is trapped within, and after the oak is split open by lightning, it soon becomes apparent that a malevolent spirit has been set free. With the help of Judy and a new friend, Zack takes on the menace that is plaguing their town and riling up a plethora of ghosts. This riveting tale is written in short, easy-to-read chapters, making it a good choice for reluctant readers. Throughout the story, the main characters grow closer to one another and gain heroic traits while the "bad guys" reveal greater depths of wickedness and insanity. Readers will relate to Zack and enjoy the book's scare factor and adventure."
—School Library Journal
"In this atmospheric horror tale, eleven-year-old Zack must defeat evil forces that have been at work ever since a tragic car accident scarred his small Connecticut town fifty years ago. Grabenstein's solid mystery, eccentric characters (including a sympathetic stepmother), and intriguing ghosts (both good and evil) generate consistent suspense."
—The Horn Book, Inc.
"My mom and I have both read the book The Crossroads and think it is genius!!! We would like to make a suggestion... You should see about getting this book made into a movie! I personally thought that this was one of the best books that I have ever read, and I didn't want it to end. Maybe you could write more suspenseful adventures with Zach and Judy!"
"Grabenstein does a wonderful job bringing this ghost story to life. He includes the urban legends so many kids enjoy scaring themselves with the motorcycle cop who died, but came back to prevent another accident, the woman hitchhiker who disappears. He adds his own creative ghost story, one fifty-years-old, and adds humor. There are explosions and fire, kidnapping, ghosts, and wild chase scenes. The Crossroads is a perfect book for summer escape reading. And, if you can pry it from your kids' hands, it's enjoyable summer reading for adults as well."
—Lesa Holstine, USA Today.com
"Talk about creepy! An evil spirit inhabits a tree in the yard where Zack Jennings, his father and his new stepmother have moved. Zack unravels a twisting, turning, sometimes confusing mystery that involves distant relatives and a possessed plumber in his new town that may be small but is far from sleepy. With so many ghosts and plotlines corkscrewing through the book, readers must stay on their toes. However, solving the mystery is worth the read in this entertaining and spooky book."
—Winston Salem Journal
"The Crossroads is one of the best ghost-story mysteries I have ever read. I really liked how someone other than a detective was trying to solve the mystery, and it was fun to try to figure things out myself, too. It was cool how I had to remember key ideas in order to understand the story, kind of like keeping track of the clues myself. I also liked how Zack and Davey were able to cover up for almost everything that they did in order to get rid of Clint Eberhart. It was exciting all the way through."
—Simon, Age 11
"The Crossroads is a heart-pounding, page-turning ghost story that will keep even the strong-willed awake long after the last page has been turned. Clint Eberhart is pure evil, and the spirit and perseverance of one young boy is all it takes to face off against him. The book flows quickly with short chapters to keep the action constantly moving."
—Teens Read Too (read the full review)
"A truly frightening ghost story with plenty of action and a mystery at the heart of it all."
"This book is incredibly appealingit really grabs you quickly and takes you for quite a wild ride. A creepy, haunting tale that made it difficult at times to read at night. This is a great psychological thriller that has surprising twists and turns. You'll love it."
—Knights Read Books Blog!
"The Buffalo-born author of adult novels "Tilt A Whirl" and "Whack A Mole" hits one out of the park in this nifty psychological thriller for middle-grade readers. Rich in characters and plot, it's the story of an 11-year-old boy named Zack Jennings who is starting a new life in Connecticut with his busy father, new stepmother and a dog. Zach is haunted by memories of his abusive mother, recently dead of cancer, and also haunted by an evil spirit that inhabits a huge tree in his backyard. The author creates a marvelous parade of ghosts along with a great villaina nasty old lady named Gerda Spratlingand neatly ties the threads of the story together with a riproaring finale."
"Thank you so much for giving me this hilarious ghost story. The writing was so good that I thought I was there with Zack as he told the story of his depressed mom. This is an excellent book which I'm going to share with a friend."
—Elias, Age 12
"What do you get when you cross a bit of mystery and suspense, a little fright, and a whole lot of ghosts? A great new summer read that boys and girls alike will enjoy. Chris Grabenstein's first children's novel, The Crossroads will keep you on the edge of your seat the entire time you're reading the book."
—The Well-Read Child
"Chris Grabenstein is an author of adult mysteries, but his first book for younger people will not disappoint. While he is known for his humor, readers should be prepared for many scary twists and turns in this very dark story, which will tie together secrets across grandparents, fathers and sons. Zack is funny and curious but finds his true heart in his battle with evil from living people and ghosts."
—KIDSREAD.COM (read the full review)
"...a tense ghost story rich in plot, and promises to keep readers on the edge of their seats with big helpings of supernatural suspense. Older teenseven adultscan enjoy it too... The story packs plenty of twists and turns, and readers will have to stay on their toes to keep up. Grabenstein does a wonderful job bringing this ghost story to life, and the book flows quickly. The Crossroads is a heart-pounding, page-turning ghost story that will keep readers glued to the book until the last page. Itıs the perfect escape for long summer days."
—Darrell Squires, The Western Star
"I loved your book, The Crossroads. I read it in two hours because I just couldn't put it down. I liked the suspense. I liked the ending adventure. I liked the way everything led up to something else. I hope you write more middle-grade books."
"If you know a young reader who's interested in exploring ghost stories and tales with a spooky bite, I've got the perfect book for you. Chris Grabenstein's The Crossroads is an excellent entry vehicle for these young readers, especially reluctant ones who get bored reading. There's nothing boring about this book. It starts off with a bang and keeps the hits coming as the young hero and his stepmom untangle all the intricacies of the supernatural mystery that lies at the heart of this book... This would be a perfect read-aloud book for teachers to share in the classroom, or to read to your kids at night. I'm planning to take this one to read to my 12-year-old the next time we go camping because it's a perfect ghost story for out in the wilds."
—Mel Odom, Blog Critics
"Chris Grabenstein's The Crossroads has been a brisk circulator in my library, so I was happy to get The Hanging Hill... This was such fun! The writing is really cleverI quoted the chapter from the dog's point of view (something that would normally drive me nuts) to my children, because I swear it's exactly what our dog thinks. ("He didn't mind cats. They were finejust, you know, different. Slept a lot. Tossed their own toys. Played with tin foil. Didn't know how to sit or stay. Pooped in a box." Page 198.) Mr. Grabenstein also gets massive points for his Latin. While there are a few errors, the use of the subjunctive was impressive enough that I won't cast any aspersions on his character for his failure to use the vocative. Very, very good mystery/horror book."
—Ms. Yingling Reads
Praise for Audio Edition
"Eleven-year-old Zack soon realizes his neighbors aren't normalor even alive. Vengeful spirit Clint Eberhart haunts the scene of the bus accident he caused, as do the souls of his victims. J.J. Myers brings these ghostly characters to life with spine-tingling effect. Her dramatic tone and pitch steer listeners through trips to the graveyard and death-defying rescues. Myers makes Zack an appealing personality with a voice that brings old-fashioned tales to mind. She succeeds equally well with female voices, especially that of crotchety Miss Spratling, who cackles unnervingly. Arguably the best voicethroaty and menacingis that of Clint Eberhart, the ghost who starts it all. Myers continues the satisfying oral tradition of ghost stories with this fun, creepy selection."
—C.A. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2008, Portland, Maine
"You have got to read this! It's really good! I tried to get my Mom to let me stay up so I could keep reading it but she said I had to wait. I didn't want to stop reading!"
—Jemma, Age 10
"Adult mystery author and screenwriter Grabenstein's first book for young readers is a murderous ghost story. Myers ably straddles the line between satisfying safe chills and sleeplessness by keeping her tones light while imbuing the malevolent characters with a touch of evil. Younger listeners will identify with the youthful characterization of 11-year-old Zack, while older kids will appreciate the fast pace, which heightens creepy suspense as two boys unravel the mystery of a 50-year-old crime that occurred at the crossroads behind Zack's Connecticut home. Myers' deft changes between individual voices, controlled use of sound levels, and unobtrusive insertion of chapter headings and attributives create an audio that matches radio-drama excitement. This fine production retains the atmosphere of a classic campfire ghost tale and is a surefire bet to satisfy repeated requests for 'something scary.'"
—Booklist (Audiobooker's Choice: Great Youth Audiobooks of 2008!)
"Narrator J.J. Myers keeps the suspense level high with smooth interpretations for the sympathetic characters and sinister voices for the evil beings. This ghost story is sure to please Goosebumps fans."
—School Library Journal