Bunting has told us a chilling tale based on events that really happened off the coasts of northwestern Scotland. In the story, Josie Ferguson goes to live with her father’s brother and his wife in an isolated village that people from other towns have little to do with. Her relatives are emotionally cold to her, but they have accepted the responsibility to care for her until she reaches eighteen – not out of any sort of love, but because they will get money for doing so.
A young man named Eli shows up at her uncle’s home and she is drawn to him because he has a way of dealing with the family’s dog – a dog that had bitten her when she tried to go outside one night. Eli takes her to his aunt’s home to get the bite treated before it can get infected. His aunt, rather cryptically, tells her that she cannot get emotionally involved with Eli because he is a “reporter” and is “forbidden.”
She manages to isolate the dog one day when her aunt and uncle are out on their fishing boat and goes into town to see if she can find at least one sympathetic ear. She finds that the townspeople are as strange as her aunt and uncle, and that they have some sort of secret which ties them together.
The entire town engages in “wrecking,” the practice of stripping wrecked ships of all saleable items that can be saved from ships that have been wrecked on the rocks of the firth. Technically nothing can be salvaged as long as an animal or a man from the wreck was still alive. That did not stop the “wreckers;” they just made sure that no one was breathing.
Josie finds out that her uncle and aunt are tied into the wreckers, and they actually lead ship to their destruction, but with Eli’s help, she manages to escape their grasp before she must take part in “wrecking.”
This is a fantastic ghost story, one of the best I have read lately. The setting reminds me of Wuthering Heights, but the plot is different. I think teen readers will greatly enjoy this tale.