guardian.co.uk | 22 October 2000 | Kit Spring

This is a horror story that will very pleasurably curdle the blood of nine to 13-year-olds. The narrator of the story mysteriously has the same name as the author, but says: 'Everything's true in this book except for the names... I'm not even going to tell you the name of my town or country. I daren't.' Darren and his best friend, Steve, find a flier for the Cirque du Freak and sneak out to the spooky, abandoned, old cinema where the bizarre show is being held. Of course, they get a lot more than they bargained for. Steve recognises one of the performers, Mr Crepsley and his amazing performing tarantula, from an old book about vampires. Steve wants to be a vampire, but Mr Crepsley turns him down. Darren, meanwhile, steals the poisonous spider which later bites Steve, who nearly dies. Mr Crepsley will only hand over the antidote if Darren agrees to become his assistant - and to become half-vampire. Darren must be 'killed', leave his family, his home and his friends. The newly cured Steve, bitter at Darren taking his place, swears that he won't rest until he has killed him. My daughter's teacher read this to a mesmerised class of 10 year olds. Lucky for them there are two sequels to shiver over.

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