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Reviewed by Anabel McPhee, Librarian, The Catlins Area School, South Otago
Opening sentence
Unsuccessful in his bid to begin living a normal life again, David Parkhouse leaves home that morning in a bluster and a tearing hurry, shouting, ‘Not fair!’ at his parents and at the doctor, slamming two doors on the way out and then running, running , running into the blue January day, into a wilderness of rampant greenery’.
The Red Zone in Christchurch is an ideal setting for an adventure or mystery story, with the landscape of abandoned gardens, empty sections and damaged roads providing a sense of loss, of the unknown, of nostalgia yet also the possibilities of new beginnings.

All these elements are present in this book by Bill Nagelkerke. The main character, David, is slowly recovering from a long illness, wanders around the red zone for the first time since the earthquakes, and through his adventures discovers a new strength and independence that he hasn’t felt for a long time.

Nagelkerke’s writing is very descriptive and sets the scene perfectly, “The Red Zone is quiet, but this snarled in-between land of branches, twigs and thorny shoots, is quieter still.” “The inside of David’s head contains its own hive of bees. They swarm and hum, darting here there and everywhere, little orange and black missiles of thought, anxiety, worry and doubt, all sounding off together.”

I read this book in one sitting and I found it to be totally engrossing, especially as I am not from Christchurch, have had no experience of the Red Zone, but was able to imagine through David’s eyes, what a strange environment this must be.

The title, The Ghost House is a bit of a give-away as to the identity of David’s new acquaintance, but while David himself only discovers it towards the end of the book, and the reader is impatiently waiting for the penny to drop, that does not detract from the narrative.

I would thoroughly recommend this book which would also work well being read aloud.
Author & Illustrator: Bill Nagelkerke
Publisher: Ahoy (Cuba Press)
ISBN: 9781991150820
Format: Paperback
Publication: 2022
Ages: 10+