The Hangman's Curse

Frank Peretti
Tommy Nelson
2001

In Baker, Washington, three popular student athletes lie in incoherent comas, with loss of muscle coordination, severe paranoia, and hallucinations. It’s whispered that they’re victims of Abel Frye, a ghost that’s haunted the school since a student hanged himself there in the 1930s. Now the hangman’s curse is spreading, and students are running scared. The Veritas Project, a family of two twin teenagers and their parents secretly commissioned by the President to investigate strange occurrences, is headed to Washington looking for answers to the recent appearance of a ghostly figure with a glowing hawk perched on his shoulder. Is this Abel Frye’s ghost, a dark angel…or something else? And who is responsible for the bizarre hangman symbol that suddenly appears scrawled on the victims’ lockers? One thing’s for sure…they have to find the truth at Baker High School fast or Abel Frye and his crawling minions will make this the final exam…

Growing up, I used to be a big fan of the mid-80s version of the Hardy Boys books, the ones that were more contemporary (at the time) and edgier than the ones my father grew up with in the 50s. Things blew up, and characters actually died, which made for more of a grown-up feel to these juvenile fiction series. Of course, in the Christian fiction market, there’s always someone or group that publishes a Christian version of whatever pop market title is going (they refer to these rip-offs as “godly alternatives”): There was the Forbidden Doorways series that was part juvie-mystery and juvie-horror, kind of a Scoobie-Doo meets R. L. Stein, that was supposed to be a “godly alternative” to the then-popular Goosebumps book line.

For years, author Frank Peretti was considered the “godly alternative” to Stephen King (which is a bit much; I would consider Peretti as the “G. A.” to Ira Levin). With the Veritas Project series (Latin for “Truth”), he takes a stab at teen fiction that, for all intents and purposes, succeeds greatly in telling a great story while driving the main themes home to the reader. Mind you, the writing style is a bit more simple, but not by much, which results in the reader not feeling like they’re being talked down to. There are many tense scenes, and the overarcing theme of alienation in High School and reaching out to those who are hurting comes through clearly. Also, if you happen to have a fear of spiders, this story will really freak you out. Like me. *brrrrr*…

Really, there’s only been two entries in the Veritas series. Hopefully, Peretti hasn’t set aside this concept, as I found it rather enjoying. I know, coming from an adult reader, it sounds kind of creepy for me perusing the juvenile fiction section for this title, but if you’re in Junior High and like things a bit more creepy than usual, have at it…

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