Book Hound: Skeleton Creek Review 2009

When I first heard about Patrick Carman’s Skeleton Creek, I was excited. Especially since it is a multi-platform novel like Cathy’s Book, Cathy’s Key, Cathy’s Ring, and the 39 Clues series. When I first saw the packaging on the shelf, I had the book in my hands before I knew it. The concept, teens investigating a gold dredge with a creepy history, with content written in a journal and video films on a website, intrigued me from the beginning.The book is well-written and reads very much like a journal. I really like Ryan, the book’s viewpoint character. He’s real and honest, and he’s locked into a situation that is definitely over his head, and maybe a bit more than dangerous. I didn’t get a real feel for Sarah’s character yet. I read a lot of what Ryan had to say about her, and I heard her voiceovers in the online content, but it’s not enough. I hope the two of them get together in the next book so she’s on stage more.Carman has got an interesting mystery he’s digging into. (See, that’s a pun. A dredge is a mining machine that digs into the earth.) There seems to be plenty of history, and I like how the town took its name from the twenty-two mile long trench left behind by the dredging machine. The image of that limestone-dotted creek will stay in my mind for a long time.There appear to be lots of clues and hints on the horizon before we get to solve the mystery, and a lot of people are involved in some fashion. Some of them are creepy and mysterious, like the lady librarian and the new wilderness ranger, and some of them are old friends of the family that have secrets. In the case of Ryan’s dad, he’s got a parent that’s involved and seems dead-set against anyone pursuing an investigation into the dredge. This is definitely a goose bump raiser and I’m looking forward to seeing how it works out.Not only that, but Carman provides menacing figures skulking around the dredge (you can see one in the videos). And that may be the ghost of Old Joe Bush, one of the dredge workers whose leg got caught in the machine and chewed up before it spit him into the black water. People talked for years about the ghost haunting the dredge. I’ve never gotten over my love of ghosts in small town atmospheres, so I’m waiting to see where this goes.Then there’s some kind of cryptic message beaten out by tools against metal pipes that Ryan decodes. The message talks about someone called the Alchemist. I’m not sure how Ryan figures out Alchemist is capitalized, but there you go.I did miss hearing dialogue in this book. Usually there’s a lot in YA books, but this one was primarily Ryan remembering things, with spatterings of dialogue along the way.And when I reached the end of the book, I was irked to some degree. This first journal really only touches on what has gone on before and leaves its readers hanging in the worst way possible. I received none of the answers I was hoping for, and there aren’t any real indications of what’s going on. Skeleton Creek is almost like a movie trailer, showing the highlights of what is to come. I looked around to find out when the next book is coming out, but I found no mention of it. That’s even more irritating.Still, I trust the premise so far. I still can’t tell if it’s going to be a mashup of a Scooby-Doo episode meets the Hardy Boys or an honest mystery or a ghost chiller. But I know I can’t wait for the next one.

Patrick Carman