While Uncle Jonathan and Mrs. Zimmerman are away at an old friend’s funeral in Florida, Lewis and Rose Rita find an old opera score while poking around the old New Zebedee Opera House. Written by the late Immanuel Vanderhelm, the music immediately becomes a hit with New Zebedee adults. When the composer’s grandson, Henry Vanderhelm, arrives in town and offers to mount the opera at his own expense, the town jumps at the chance—not realizing that performing the opera will raise the dead and enslave them to Vanderhelm, allowing him to take over the world.
Under Vanderhelm’s spell, the town’s inhabitants don’t seem to notice when New Zebedee is cut off from the outside world by a magical fog. Radio and television signals don’t penetrate, and no one can enter or leave the town. Without magical assistance, Lewis and Rose Rita are at a loss as to how to stop Vaderhelm’s evil plan, but that doesn’t stop them from trying everything they can think of.
Brad Strickland did a good job of writing in Bellairs’s style; even knowing that he wrote it, I couldn’t really tell the book apart from any of the Bellairs books I’ve read lately—except, perhaps, for the pacing. Ordinarily, Bellairs allows events to unfold over a period of months, perfectly content to fast-forward through weeks or months in which nothing much happens. In contrast, The Doom of the Haunted Opera takes place over a period of days. It’s not all that important of a distinction; although the pacing is one of the things I particularly notice about Bellairs’s novels, I don’t find that it adds anything to the story. I’m curious to know if this book is an exception, or if Brad Strickland always uses this more traditional time scale.