Devil’s Rock

For 11-year-old Zaki, this year’s family holiday is turning out to be more than a bit of a damp squib. His mum is off working in Switzerland rather than spending time with her kids, and Zaki’s older brother Michael is now 15 and far too cool to want to go exploring in a rowing boat from the family’s yacht. So when Zaki spies a cave beneath Devil’s Rock at low tide, he has to investigate on his own. But curiosity almost kills this cat.

In the darkness Zaki finds a child’s skeleton and a strange bracelet, but the next thing he knows, the tide has risen and cut off his only way out. A mysterious girl seems to appear out of nowhere to rescue him, only to make him promise he never even tell anyone he was in the cave, let alone that she saved his life. But Zaki was curious enough to head into a cave on his own, and everything about this girl arouses his curiosity even more. Plus strange things start to happen when Zaki slips the bracelet on, not least the bird of prey that flies out of a poster on his first day at high school.

When the plot is driven by curiosity rather than danger this is quite a slow paced adventure story. At least in the first half of the book, Zaki spends many of the key scenes alone. It only properly takes off when he gains a partner in crime, Anusha, who might not be as curious as he is, but who just seems less passive than the rest of the characters in the book. Even then, the mystery central to the plot is not so much solved as simply revealed by having the characters read all the answers in a book.

This is quite an old fashioned yarn. Indeed, aside from a few specific references to the modern world, it could just as easily have been published in that interwar golden age of boys’-own stories that start with exploring and end with magic. It’s ultimately a story about Indian/Sir Lankan folklore transplanted (quite literally) to rural Devon, which makes for a rather unique twist. The book appears to be out of print now, but is still readily available as an ebook.