The knife had a handle of polished black bone, and a blade finer and sharper than any razor. If it sliced you, you might not even know you had been cut, not immediately.
The knife had done almost everything it was brought to that house to do, and both the blade and the handle were wet.
The man Jack paused on the landing. With his left hand he pulled a large white handkerchief from the pocket of his black coat, and with it he wiped off the knife and his gloved right hand which had been holding it; then he put the handkerchief away. The hunt was almost over. He had left the woman in her bed, the man was on the bedroom floor, the other child in her brightly colored bedroom, surrounded by toys and half-finished models. That only left the little one, a baby barely a toddler, to take care of. One more and his task would be done.
. . . . .
The man Jack's eyes were accustomed to the dim moonlight, so he had no desire to turn on an electric light. And light was not that important, after all. He had other skills.
The man Jack sniffed the air. He ignored the scents that had come into the room with him, dismissed the scents that he could safely ignore, honed in on the smell of the thing he had come to find. He could smell the child: a milky smell, like chocolate chip cookies, and the sour tang of a wet, disposable, nighttime diaper. He could smell the baby shampoo in its hair, and something small and rubbery--a toy, he thought, and then, no, something to suck--that the child had been carrying.
The child had been here. It was here no longer. The man Jack followed his nose down the stairs through the middle of the tall, thin house. He inspected the bathroom, the kitchen, the airing cupboard, and, finally, the downstairs hall, in which there was nothing to be seen but the family's bicycles, a pile of empty shopping bags, a fallen diaper, and the stray tendrils of fog that had insinuated themselves into the hall from the open door to the street.
The man Jack made a small noise then, a grunt that contained both frustration and also satisfaction. He slipped the knife into its sheath in the inside pocket of his long coat, and he stepped out into the street. There was moonlight, and there were streetlights, but the fog stifled everything, muted light and muffled sound and made the night shady and treacherous. He looked down the hill towards the light of the closed shops, then up the street, where the last high houses wound up the hill on their way to the darkness of the old graveyard.
The man Jack sniffed the air. Then, without hurrying, he began to walk up the hill.
(Excerpt from Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book, Chapter One: How Nobody Came to the Graveyard.)
But what about the story? What about the writing? Were they really any good?
Neil Gaiman's Newbery winning The Graveyard Book sends me into fits of shivers, not just because the idea of "the man Jack" stalking the baby is downright gruesome, but because Gaiman's writing is by turns haunting and amusing. Tendrils of fog and muted streetlamps are the stuff of many crime fiction novels and horror movies, but Gaiman employs them beautifully, mixing them in with less common descriptions like that of the baby's scent.
Inventive and well-written, The Graveyard Book is one of the best paranormal books for kids that I've ever read. (Full review to be posted either Friday or Saturday.)
What are your favorite paranormal books for kids? And how to do you feel about Gaiman versus R.L. Stine?