Published by Scholastic
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When twins Lindy and Kris find a ventriloquist's dummy in a Dumpster, Lindy decides to "rescue" it, and she names it Slappy. But Kris is green with envy. It's not fair. Why does Lindy get to have all the fun and all the attention? Kris decides to get a dummy of her own. She'll show Lindy. Then weird things begin to happen. Nasty things. Evil things. It can't be the dummy causing all the trouble, Can it?
I put off reading this book for more than a week.
Not because I needed a break from the series, I didn’t. But because I was scared.
Memories of this book flooded back to me, memories of staying up at night and reading under my covers with my pocket torch.
Memories of the dummies, Mr. Wood and Slappy. I hate dummies. You know the type. The stereotypical ventriloquists tool. Wooden head, creepy grinning face, miniature clothing, cold dead eyes…. They along with clowns and porcelain dolls are things that my children will NOT be getting in their nursery when I become a dad.
Nope… Not happening…. Sayonara dum dum…
And that fear of dummies and human like dolls, stems largely from this rather small book. Our protagonists, twins Lindy and Kris, find the infamous Slappy in a dumpster by the side of their house and both start getting interested in ventriloquism. Normal enough response. Lindy keeps Slappy and is soon performing at kids birthdays in the neighbourhood. Kris gets jealous and her dad picks up another dummy named Mr. Wood from a local pawn shop. And that’s when things start to get weird. The dummies start moving when the girls are away from them. They are found at one point falling off of their chair and throttling each other, frozen in what appears to be mortal combat.
Kris practices with Mr. Wood but insists that he is speaking on his own. To the point where she is MC for a school event and Mr. Wood humiliates her with jokes about staff members and vomiting a putrid green goo that spews forth with almost preternatural volume.
Y’see when shit like that goes down I’d be the first person building a bonfire and burning that dummy. Then I’d be jumping up and down on its ashes and washing them away with bleach to make sure the fu**er was good and dead.
Mr. Wood that night escapes and tries to kill the family dog, see another reason he had to die, but was ultimately crushed under a steam roller. And the kids head up to their room and Slappy leaves the book with the ultimate in sequel bait “I thought the other guy would never leave”.
To me that makes him as a villain far more threatening because through the entire novel he did nothing. He sat there and was the perfect dummy. He was patient. He was deliberate. He was plotting. And it chilled me in much the same way that it had a s a child. Maybe because I had expected it, and my fear of these dummies has, like my fear of clowns, persisted into adulthood.
The writing again, was strong. The detail showed a working knowledge of ventriloquism and the incantation found that brought the dummies to life was a lovely littler Lovecraftian nod that had me smiling.
All in all this is by far the strongest of the series that I have read so far, not purely because of the nostalgic sense of fear that it engendered within me but because it too holds up. It’s something that children today would resonate with and would probably still find creepy. With the twist coming from so close as to be sublimely simple.
It’s left me on a high and I can’t wait to cry monster when I get my teeth into book 8.