Reviewed by Molly Martin
The Ghosts of Malhado
by HJ Ralles
Hard cover: 224 pages, ISBN-13: 978-1929976805
H J Ralles’ The Ghosts of Malhado begins as Alex scours the sands for sand dollars to add to his collection. He is a tad baffled as he hears a mournful whisper, “Malhado”. The sun was sinking over Christmas Bay, the sky filled with the beauty of sunset, and Alex knew he was alone on the beach. So, who was uttering that mournful cry? Setting aside his curiosity Alex knew he had better head back to the beach house where his family was enjoying their vacation, Mom had allowed him to stay on the beach a little longer as she left to ready dinner, but, she sure didn’t mean he could stay so long. Alex raced town the lights showing from windows in the houses in Treasure Island. As he neared the little bridge protecting the dunes Alex was astonished to see a bright flash of red light and then blue. The sand dollar fell from his hand. Alex apprehensively stared at the face of a man in strange dress standing on the bridge, the odd metal hat he wore above his face, wait no face, sunken eyes, a hole for a nose, his teeth bore a blue tinge… the light from Jolly Roger Road behind him seemed to pass right through the stranger’s body.
Thus begins Alex’ summer adventure in which he falls and is not allowed to go back to beach until his mother is sure he is okay; he becomes aware of local lore concerning the area he has been visiting each summer; begins to doubt what is real and what is not following that fall in which he bumps his head; sees, more than once what he believes to be a ghost; relies on neighbor friend Juliann to help him uncover the mystery; has several close calls, in part in trying to not let his mom learn that he has ventured out on the sand when he is supposed to be convalescing, visits the local library and learns some of the history of the area, meets a local real estate vendor who knows much of the story of the, and at last begins to realize that what we know for certain may or not be as it really is.
The ‘adventure’ portion of the book is followed with a pictorial introduction to the setting of the mystery. Color photos of Treasure Island San Luis Pass, the bridge-board walk over the dune, and various of the sites and buildings mentioned in the adventure provide good clarity for the reader. The cinematic nature of this book would lend itself well to a film adaptation. Which author do you think will be next to hit movie stardom?
Ralles offers sources including books, maps, plats and photos, articles and websites she used as part of the research for this book. I enjoyed meeting Alex, Julieann and their friends and acquaintances, formed nice mental pictures of the situations and settings as I read, and thoroughly enjoyed the fast paced narrative woven around an old story regarding the particular setting of San Luis Treasure Island, Texas.