Book review

The Ghost Behind the Wall by Melvin Burgess (2000)

Do you believe in ghosts? If you do, what do you think they actually are? You'll have to think about that a little bit if you read this book.

There doesn't seem to be anyone very lovable in this book. There's David:

' ...he was a bit of a brute, a tough. He was only four foot nothing and twelve years old. His other names were Bum Wipe, Halfboy and Shorty. He usually ignored it but once in a while he went mad and nearly killed someone.'

And there's his dad, who's a bit weedy. And then there's the neighbour, Mr Alveston. He's very old and going a bit gaga. I suppose that makes Mr Alveston a natural target for David's spite, but actually, Mr Alveston turns out to be more than a match for David.

It's a very strange story, and rather unpleasant. David only has a dad, and his dad works a lot, so David spends a lot of time in the flat alone. It's by accident really, that he dreams up the ultimate adventure. The ventilation grille screwed onto the wall suddenly catches David's attention:

Below him, the pipe plunged down to the basement, and above him it went on up to the other five floors of Mahogany Villas. To each side, two more pipes branched off. They were running to the other flats on the fourth floor. That meant that the pipes could take him anywhere he wanted to go in Mahogany Villas. He could go into other people's flats. He could steal things. He was a thief in the darkness. He could listen to everything they said. He could spy. He could go through all their most private things.

You see, he's a rather nasty piece of work. He has a go at most of those things, but he has to admit that it isn't much fun doing it all on his own. He really needs a friend to share it with.

Anyway, he pokes around in those old pipes just a bit too much, especially around old Mr Alveston's flat, because he disturbs something that would have been better left alone. Of course, if you want to know what David disturbs, you will have to read the book for yourself, but I think you might like to know that although David starts off as rather obnoxious he does make a proper friend in the end, even if it is only for a short time.

What can I read next?

This book reminds me very much of one by Paul Shipton:

I think you might enjoy this one by Louis Sachar:

If you enjoy ghosts, but would like a kinder story, you might like to look at this one by Helen Cresswell:

Or this one by Philippa Pearce:

Also, the Bookchooser has found these books with a similar profile:

The Ghost Behind the Wall features in these lists: