By Diane Hoh.
Tess and her friends hang out at the Boardwalk all the time. It’s their town’s main source of revenue, and has proved a lucrative business investment for their families. Tragedy strikes when the roller-coaster derails, killing one of Tess’s classmates and maiming two more. When she tells her friends she saw a mysterious figure fleeing the scene, at first no one believes her. But then she receives a disturbing note from someone threatening to take more lives. When another horrible ‘accident’ happens in the Funhouse, it becomes clear to Tess that the children of the Boardwalk’s owners are being targeted, meaning Tess, her brother and her friends are all in danger.
From its eventful first chapter, we are hooked. Funhouse is a captivating read, maintaining interest with its steady pace and plenty of action. Tess’s story is interspersed with snippets of first-person narration from the point of view of the perpetrator, whose motivations are revealed gradually, building suspense. This avoids the need for tedious exposition during the finale, clearing the way for an exciting, fast-paced climax. Funhouse is a whodunit, with a varied list of suspects. However, some of the characters suffer from a lack of depth, making it tricky to keep track of who’s who. Beak, for example, features often; he is a main character. But all we’re ever told about is his penchant for practical jokes, making him frustratingly one-dimensional.
The ‘pranks’ Tess is subjected to (creepy phone calls, a poison-pen letter, a stuffed cat) are archetypal Point Horror, but her isolation – both literal (she is alone in the house because her stepmother is travelling abroad) and figurative (everyone thinks her fears are unfounded) – encourages our sympathy. When Tess is scared, we are scared. The chapters written from the killer’s POV are creepy, particularly the chilling epilogue. The last section is a little hard to swallow: the perpetrator takes some unbelievable risks, then Tess takes a while to fight back, and when she does – and has already essentially saved herself – a male character turns up and gets credited as a hero. Nevertheless, the killer’s sinister intentions and dark motivations (of which we, unlike Tess, are fully aware) make for a thrilling final section. Funhouse is an atmospheric mystery and a satisfying whodunit, which captivates from the first to the last page.
Whilst some of the intended scares fall flat, Funhouse does have a few creepy moments, especially in the chapters where we experience the killer gradually discovering the truth and plotting their revenge. Furthermore, the brief epilogue is the most chilling last page of any Point Horror I have read so far, earning this otherwise average entry an extra point, and an overall fear factor rating of…