In this spooky debut novel from filmmaker and travel writer Riggs, 16-year-old Jacob a witness to his grandfather's horrifying death journeys to a small Welsh island in search of answers. Were his grandfather's stories about growing up in an orphanage populated by children with powers like invisibility and levitation actually true? What about the box of strange photos his grandfather possessed, including an image of someone with a mouth on the back of his head?
Those photos, in fact, are sprinkled throughout the book, adding a whimsical edge to the text and serving as an introduction to the ''children'' Jacob befriends not to mention Miss Peregrine herself (one image of the headmistress shows her hunched figure in silhouette, smoking a pipe). The images give depth to a novel that at times feels a little light on character development, possibly because Riggs, eyeing future volumes, spends extra time setting up the framework of his story.
With its X-Men: First Class-meets-time-travel story line, David Lynchian imagery, and rich, eerie detail, it's no wonder Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children has been snapped up by Twentieth Century Fox. This is a novel with ''movie adaptation'' written into its powerful DNA. B+
Those Creepy Pictures Explained
The idea for Miss Peregrine's Home popped into Ransom Riggs' head when he ran across some sinister-looking vintage photos, which ''suggest stories even though you don't know who the people are or exactly when they were taken.'' As he began writing, he kept searching for images, even combing swap meets and flea markets. ''I was developing the story as I was finding the photos. I'd find a particularly evocative photo and I'd say, 'I need to work this in somehow.' '' Most are reproduced in the novel ''as is,'' but a few have been digitally altered. Riggs says he ended up with more photos than he could use: ''I have a nice big fat backlog for the second book.'' Keith Staskiewicz