Opening Line: "Raven Island was a forgotten place."
From the author of Midnight at the Barclay Hotel comes a new middle grade mystery inspired by Alcatraz.
Raven Island was once a military fort, and then a sanitorium before being converted into a super-maximum prison, it was closed to the public in 1972. Mr. Chavez was the last warden, but he died under mysterious circumstances involving a prison break that occurred on the island. Since then, the prison and island have sat desolate, home to the ravens that roost here. However, the new owner and previous warden's daughter, Mrs. Chavez has decided to reopen the grounds to visitors.
Tori, Marvin and Noah are the first class to take a field trip to Raven Island. Tori would've rather been playing in her team's soccer tournament, but because of a slip in her grades, she wasn't allowed to go with the team. Tori's also having an extremely tough time because her brother Danny was incarcerated for something he didn't do, and she hasn't heard from him in quite a while. Tori has been paired up with Marvin, whose parents run a Korean restaurant. Marvin sometimes feels forgotten among his extended family. He's also the one person who is excited about being on the island. As an avid film buff, he plans to use the opportunity to make his own horror movie and hopefully enter it in a competition. Noah is the new kid at school and kind of a loner. He starts off by being paired with their teacher, but eventually sneaks in with Tori and Marvin's group for the tour. Ever since Noah's mom passed away, he's been frightened of many things, his therapist suggested he keep a journal of all the things that scare him and right now he's adding having to talk to the other kids on the field trip to his growing list.
Mr. Thorne, their guide begins by taking the class on a tour of the prison. Just as the trio begin to follow their classmates, they catch a glimpse of prisoners walking off in the distance and hear a cry for help. Curious by what they hear, they venture into the woods surrounding the prison and make their way toward the lighthouse. From there they observe faceless prisoners in striped uniforms digging in the cemetery. Marvin believes these faceless ghosts are "dalgyal gwishin" or ghosts that have died with no one to remember them, similar to the Korean ghost stories that his grandmother told him about. The trio try to hurry back to their classmates but get turned around before reuniting with the group. But Marvin has plans to investigate the island further, so he steps off the ferry before it leaves the island, which forces Tori and Noah to follow him.
As Tori, Noah and Marvin begin to explore the island a series of mysterious events occur. They have a run in with a film crew on the island preparing a ghost hunters episode. And encounter creepy sensations where the wind is blowing, they get glimpses of icy cold frost and have the feeling that they're being watched. Tori then finds a journal written by the former warden and they even come across a member of the film crew who has been murdered. When secrets of the past begin to be revealed, the trio need to unmask the killer and bring the mystery of the warden's death to a close.
As with Midnight at the Barclay Motel, which is loosely based off of the historic Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado, Daybreak on Raven Island also has a very atmospheric location, Alcatraz. There's something about old prisons or hospitals that just make for a spooky, creepy settings. The prison cells and walls in decay. Lots of history, some not so nice like past abuses and even unexplained deaths. I must admit that Cell 14 really creeped me out. There's also an interesting murder mystery to solve with plenty of ghosts. And then they went to the morgue and the rumors of the warden's death, and the prison escape, yep this made for a very exciting and creepy story. This would be such a perfect Halloween story to read, if you're brave enough, maybe to even read by flashlight. So far, Fleur Bradley has taken us to the Stanley Hotel and Alcatraz, where could we possibly be going next? Can't wait to find out!