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Gr 5-7-Hank Cantrell and his "not-quite-trusty" sidekick, Clifford Hopkins, team up again in these stories set in the mid-century Midwest. Spurred by the tales told by town historian Jarvis Satterly at the "liars' bench," the boys investigate supernatural occurrences in and around their hometown. Historical details become the backdrop to the ghostly encounters, including a group of undead Native Americans, a moonshine distiller, and an otherworldly doctor still looking to make house calls. Throughout these stories, Hank is the cool-headed hero, managing to settle the souls of the restless dead and protect their girlfriends, while his pal either passes out or runs away. Bial's continuation of this series seems to miss the mark. The characters are exaggerated stereotypes of rural community members. Although the historical information woven into the text could be intriguing, the neatness with which each plotline is resolved works against the story as a whole. Readers looking for an enticing mystery series would do better to look elsewhere.-Colleen S. Banick, Tomlinson Middle School, Fairfield, CT (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Ray Bial is the acclaimed author of more than 100 books for children and adults, including many historical photodocumentary books such as Amish Home, The Underground Railroad, Where Lincoln Walked, Nauvoo, Ellis Island, and others. His previous ghost stories include The Fresh Grave, The Ghost of Honeymoon Creek, and Shadow Island. He lives in Urbana, Illinois.