Book Review: Scared to Death, by Anthony Horowitz

A collection of gruesome and sometimes-funny horror stories for teens, written by the man who now writes the new James Bond and Sherlock Holmes stories. Not for the faint-hearted.

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Anthony Horowitz is an English author best known for his Alex Rider Series, The Diamond Brothers series and The Power of Five series, as well as the television series Foyle’s War. He was also the one chosen by the Ian Fleming estate to write more James Bond novels, and the estate of Arthur Conan Doyle to write a new Sherlock Holmes novel. He has been very prolific in both print and television, publishing more than 50 books.

In the book Scared to Death, Horowitz has written 10 twisted, terrifying and sinister short stories. And yes, they are terrifying and often gruesome, but also scarily funny. Some stories are written in the first person and others in third person narrative.

Horror stories are not new for Horowitz. He has previously published Horowitz Horror and More Horowitz Horror and this book is written in the same vein.

Each story is very different, but I think the very first one is the most gruesome! Or maybe not… Be prepared for lots of deaths and a surprising twist at the end of each story!

Themes covered in the different stories range from quiz shows of the future, robotics, exchange students, and even kite flying. Many are relatable to common teenage experiences before they turn in a completely different direction. Some of them are cautionary tales aimed at changing socially unacceptable behaviour. Some are set in the not-so-far-off future. But all keep the reader on the edge of the seat.

Each story is entertaining and easy to read, and the book was difficult to put down. There are many “WHAT???” moments. Teenagers are often drawn to the bizarre and macabre and those who enjoyed R L Stine and Paul Jennings will find these more sophisticated stories to their liking. Each story is very different and I found myself wondering what sort of brain could create such diverse and scary versions of the world.

There is a final must-read at the end of the book where there is a note from the chairman of Walker Books, “David Lloyd”. This is definitely not to be missed. A fitting and funny way to finish 10 very gruesome tales.

The central character in each book is often a teenager between 14 and 17 and so I would recommend these stories for mature readers aged 12+.

Horowitz once said he is most scared of dying in the middle of writing a book. Thank goodness he lived to complete this one… or did he?!

Final warning: Not for the faint-hearted. Don’t read this book alone in a darkened room!

Reviewed by Sue Mauger

Rating out of 10: 8

Distributed by: Walker Books
Released: October 2018
RRP: $16.99

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