This was an interesting, if a bit older, twist on a typical ghost story, one that didn't have a clear villain, although there are unlikable characters, such as archetype school bullies and a greedy real estate developer. I found I really enjoyed reading this, as did my daughter!
Billy Shivers wanders away from the Hitchcock Public Library to the Haunted House of Books, which is a little like a haunted house, a little like a bookstore, and a lot of fun.
Pretty soon, Billy's not just visiting the book store every day. The grumpy but detail-obsessed proprietor, Rexford E. Rapscallion, recruits him for an "internship" working unpaid in the store over the summer break.
But, and I want to emphasize this, absolutely nothing is as you expect or it seems in this tale. I expected Rapscallion to be a ...rapscallion, the villain, but there is no clear "bad-guy" in this tale.
Rapscallion's struggling to keep the amazing bookstore open -- it's got room after room of movie-set like displays of spooky and haunted horror genre staples, like authentic mummies, and coffins for vampires, and a whole room dedicated to were-creatures. Even the checkout counter is a coffin and the cash register is truly horrific (it punches you when you ring up a sale). His daughter thinks it's full of junk and refuses to talk to him.
Billy goes with Rapscallion to a Bankrupt Booksellers conference, where he's approached by a woman with a manuscript that's so scary, so haunted, it's supposedly killed multiple people. They hire a ghost detective, a young woman, who joins their team.
Together they come up with a promotion to bring in book lovers (and purchases!) so he doesn't have to sell the property. It's a contest to spend the one night in the book store while Rapscallion reads "The Most Frightening Story Ever Told" at midnight.
Of course, the only entrants are several school bullies, who've already ruined Rapscallion's previous exhibit opening by spray painting a mummy pink and pushed his store to the brink of financial ruin. Then Rapscallion reads the story and discovers....horror! It's not scary at all! Whatever will they do? And will the shop have to shut down?
I won't ruin the twist at the end, just know, it's a satisfying read.