Bellairs's work sits squarely in terror. For most of The Figure in the Shadows we only know that something scary is on the way. The scary thing only appears in the final chapters; even then it's barely seen. On page 78, Lewis Barnavelt receives a scary postcard that says, in Latin, Venio ("I come"). Such a postcard -- a POSTCARD -- should not be so scary. But it is VERY SCARY. The next scary thing, an old newspaper blowing around in the wind -- A VERY SCARY NEWSPAPER -- appears on page 119. My daughter and I were TERRIFIED.
With this book, Bellairs reminds us that a figure in the shadows can be much more frightening than, say, a well-lit monster. No one has written a full-length biography of Bellairs. I wish someone would.
Jessy Randall / Hey, There's A Dead Guy in the Living Room