Invisible Fiends, Book 2: Raggy Maggie

By Barry Hutchison.

 

It’s finally time for my second review of the outstanding ‘Invisible Fiends’ series by Barry Hutchison, who is quickly becoming one of my favourite authors of the last ten years, if not all time. And if you’ve read ‘Mr Mumbles’, the first book in the series, and thought it just couldn’t be beat, then you’re in for an exhilarating surprise!

After the post-apocalyptic prologue that creeps inevitably closer, we find ourselves at theschoolofKyle, the main character of the series, less than two weeks after Mr Mumbles’ murderous rampage, and it’s not long before it become clear that Kyle’s troubles have only just begun…

Because it’s not just his invisible friend coming back to life to exact bloody vengeance, and if he thought Billy the school bully was bad, just wait until Kyle comes face to make-upped face with Billy’s invisible friend.

And this time it’s double trouble

Meet Caddie, a scary-as-all-hell little girl whose past times include tea-parties, pretty dresses, playing games and possessing people – sorry, ‘playing’ with people. Until they break. Just wait until you see how she ‘plays’ with Mrs Milton, the school’s headmistress; it’s very creepy, and a brilliant insight into the Caddie character before we actually meet the girl herself.

And then there’s the titular Raggy Maggie herself. Or itself… for Raggy Maggie is a doll. A cracked, one-eyed porcelain doll with patchy blonde hair and dressed in rainbow rags and a tattered beige skirt. If that wasn’t creepy enough, then the connection between Caddie and her doll is one that is both disturbing and curious. It’s one that makes you wonder just who is in control; is Caddie the puppeteer, subconsciously breathing life into her doll so it can take responsibility of the horrors she performs? Or is Raggy Maggie really alive, issuing the chilling girl with macabre commands only Caddie can hear? The answer may, or may not, be revealed within the book. You’ll just have to read it to find out.

Either way, once Caddie and Raggy Maggie get control of the show, it’s unlike anything you could possibly imagine; she’s kidnapped her childhood friend, the boy who dreamt her up in the first place, and Kyle has just one hours to find the three of them… or Billy dies.

Now some of you, like me, would read that and be immediately reminded of the great Saw franchise – but fear not! ‘Raggy Maggie’ doesn’t come ever once come across as a Saw rip-off for children. Quite the opposite, in fact; thanks in part to the fact that Barry Hutchison has never seen a Saw film (you really should, Barry. After reading ‘Raggy Maggie’ I’m certain you’d like them), the book reads as something far more fresh and original, focusing on the theme of darkly twisted and skewed children’s games (I am never skipping rope again*) as Kyle and Ameena face Caddie’s sadistic gauntlet in a school that is unlike anything Kyle remembers.

I’ll stop before I give anything major away – Raggy Maggie is a book best read off-guard, believe me. But trust me when I say that everything that made Barry Hutchison’s debut so stunning – deep characters, realistic dialogue and genuine chills – are back in this second book and amplified a hundredfold. And with ‘Raggy Maggie’ comes a new glimpse into the twisted genius of Hutchison’s imagination; whether it’s hot imaginary tea or the innate fear of the dark most children share, and the shapes their minds see within them.

At the first time of reading this, ‘Raggy Maggie’ was my favourite book in the series, and remained so until the amazing ‘Doc Mortis’. But that is a review for another time…

Rating : 10/10

* – Er… not that I ever skipped rope before. Honest.

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