'The Wrong Train' by Jeremy de Quidt (David Fickling Books)

The dichotomy between writing for children and writing about them can be vast. In The Wrong Train, a series of horror stories, uniquely crafted in dialogue form between a young boy and a stranger and his dog “somewhere” is most readable and certainly unnerving. 

Author Jeremy de Quidt, born in Walthamstow, London, grew up in Essex. His first book, The Toymaker, a disturbing tale involving automatons, was published in 2008 and shortlisted for The Branford Boase Award and Waterfronts Children’s Book Prize. An acclaimed second book, The Feathered Man, which is about an angel and a murder, appeared in 2014. 

The globally feared “bogeyman” and in South Africa the “tokolosh”, have thrilled and chilled young and old alike over the years; this book slots smoothly into the genre. I lent it to an avid reader friend. She managed to get halfway through, then returned it with a “too frightening for me” apology. Safe to say, therefore that De Quidt achieved his aim. This is a well-constructed and well-written book. But for the publishers to talk of a “teen horror series of stories” is in my view too commercial – there is enough violence and despair around to introduce more here. 

The Wrong Train is a collection of goose-bump stories narrated by a stranger who appears from a misty night to keep a boy entertained as the lost youth hopes for his correct train, having disembarked at a “station” in the middle of nowhere ... the reader is led to believe there may be no salvation for him. Not quite as scary as Stephen King’s work, there is, however, a more underlying, subtler approach but it’s definitely not for the faint-hearted. 

The supernatural horrors range from monsters, to haunted cars and a farrago of futilities. Do not expect any end-of-the rainbow dénouements. The twist at the end is apt and produces more shortage of breath. The author is married and lives near Wells, Somerset, in England, with his wife and their three children.