Release date: September 1st 2011.
Paperback, 352 pages.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Source: Received from publisher for review.
Reviewed by: Liz
Meet Jud Lester: Paranormal Investigator. When a crime is committed and the police are at a loss, the Covert Response Youth Paranormal Team (or CRYPT for short) is called in to figure out whether something paranormal is at work. Jud is their star agent. Jud, unwillingly paired with new recruit Bex, has just landed his biggest case yet...people have been disappearing in mysterious circumstances while others are viciously attacked - yet there are no suspects and a complete lack of hard evidence. The only thing that links each attack is the fact that survivors all claim that the culprits were 17th century highwaymen. Can Jud and Bex work out what has caused the spirits of these dangerous men to return to the streets of London before they wreak more death and destruction?
CRYPT: The Gallows Curse is an excellent start to a new series. The story focuses on Jud Lester, a teenager with ESP who works for the Covert Response Youth Paranormal Team (CRYPT) a sector of MI5 that teams up with young people to solve paranormal related cases. Jud is a great investigator, and number one in his team. Some even say he’s become obsessed with ghosts, but this is because Jud is harbouring a dark secret – he is in fact Jamie Goode, son of rich and famous Jason Goode, and is a convicted criminal, wrongly charged with the murder of his own mother. Jud never killed her, it was the ghosts that did it, but of course, who in the world would believe that? Forced to hide his true identity, Jud takes his work in CRYPT very seriously, because the only way to clear his name and to finally get freedom is to prove that ghosts really do exist. But doing so is harder than it seems – recently, a series of odd events have taken place, but Jud just can’t seem to collect any evidence, or find any connections to prove any paranormal activity took place. The only clue he has is that all the surviving witnesses claim to have seen the ghosts of 17th century highwaymen. Together with Bex, a fellow CRYPT member, Jud must work out why ghosts have recently started attacking while also trying to figure out a way to stop them.
I really enjoyed CRYPT: The Gallows Curse – it was a perfect mix of horror, mystery, action and humour, and I think it would definitely appeal to a wide range of people. Jud was a very interesting, very likeable character, and I loved getting to know him. In order to be able to work for CRYPT, he had to go by the false name “Jud Lester” and was made to change his appearance as well as every other part of his life. Though he pretended to be tough and arrogant on the outside, inside Jud was actually very lonely and felt isolated, and was still mourning the loss of his mother, while also having to deal with the fact the entire world thought he was a murderer. He was desperate to clear his name - desperate to find freedom and escape his confinement in CRYPT. He was not allowed to do things normal boys his age were because he was under constant surveillance by the police, who still refused to believe he was innocent of his mother’s murder. I felt so bad for him because he had been wronged by the justice system, and now his life was a mere shadow of what it was before. His father treated him like a stranger, and he didn’t really have any friends – it was all so unfair. The only person that seemed to be really there for Jud was Bonati, the professor at CRYPT who was like a second father to Jud. He seemed to understand what the teenager was going through, and while he was a bit strict, I did like Bonati because he seemed to really care for Jud as if he were his own son.
Bex was the girl Jud was partnered with for the mission, and she was another character I really liked. Headstrong and feisty, Jud wasn’t used to dealing with girls like her, and I like the way she challenged him. Bex seemed to be one of the only people that realised there was more to Jud than his “number one investigator” label, and tried to get to know him, which is something not a lot of other people did. I liked the way their friendship grew, and how they both realised they were glad to be partnered with each other. They worked well together, and were both smart and came up with a lot of ideas to solve the case, and while there was nothing beyond friendship in this book, a few hints were dropped here and there that perhaps suggest Bex and Jud ‘s relationship may develop in future books (or maybe this is my wishful thinking, who knows!).
The book was generally well-paced, but a little slow at parts, and the chapters alternated between the teenagers at CRYPT and other characters outside of CRYPT - usually ordinary people who were being attacked by the ghosts. I liked the way Jud and Bex managed to solve the puzzle and connect up all the dots to work out what was going on, and I really enjoyed the fast-paced action towards the end (though I felt perhaps that things were resolved a little too quickly). The ending was satisfying and wrapped up the story of this book while also leaving a few loose ends, and I definitely look forward to reading the next book in the series.
Overall, CRYPT: The Gallows Curse was a highly entertaining read, and I would recommend it to fans of ghost stories/light horror, or to anyone who enjoyed the Alex Rider series. A fabulous fiction debut!