Author: CJ Skuse
Publisher: Mira Ink
Publication Date: Oct 2015
Source: Review Copy
Synopsis from Goodreads
At sixteen Nash thought that the fight to become Head Girl of prestigious boarding school Bathory would be the biggest battle she’d face. Until her brother’s disappearance leads to Nash being trapped at the school over Christmas with Bathory’s assorted misfits. As a blizzard rages outside, strange things are afoot in the school’s hallways, and legends of the mysterious Beast of Bathory – a big cat rumoured to room the moors outside the school – run wild. Yet when the girls’ Matron goes missing it’s clear that something altogether darker is to blame – and that they’ll have to stick together if they hope to survive.
REVIEW BY KATE – YEAR 11
Skuse’s Monster black mass stalks surreptitiously across the Bathory School for girls playing fields from the outset. Its staring yellow eyes are gripping and unnerving. The little old man with his collection tin at the Bathory Museum keeps the intensity moving with his legendary stories of the victims of the beast- its evil!
Skuse’s fast paced mystery twists and turns, keeping the reader guessing until the end. Is the monster based on superstition and spooky scaremongering, or do the Bathory girls really have something to be terrified of?
When central character Nash (Natasha) thought that the race to become Head Girl would be her greatest challenge, her brother’s disappearance in the drug cartel country of rainforest Colombia leads her to be confined at the school over the Christmas period, with a group of misfits in the same position. Nash’s ally, Maggie provides the humour, becoming well known for her pranks and expletives! Clashes with rich teen Clarice, whose parents own the fifth largest racing stables in the world, and the ‘blonde assassin’ Dianna, become more pronounced in typical teenage manner, as the challenges and frustrations unfold, until they recognise that team work is paramount, if they wish to survive!
Set in the idyllic, but isolated landscaped gardens of Bathory School, the hidey holes, secret doorways and passages, and Hogwartey-style Houses provide a wonderful backdrop for the teenage girls- until Nash points out that there are ‘real’ things out there that they need to worry about. Suffocated by menacing snowstorms, a life sentenced convict on the run, a matron who has disappeared, Nash reveals, ‘There are your monsters!’
Skuse’s mystery becomes a psychologically dangerous thriller, with a graphic spine-chilling climax- it is unexpected, unpredictable and life changing- but is it over?