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Book Review: The Vanishing of Aveline Jones by Phil Hickes (Usborne Books)

Illustrated by Keith Robinson

For ages 9+

*[Ad-review copy]

My first foray into the Aveline Jones series was in September 2020 and it was my must read for Halloween that year at the Moon Lane children's bookshop I managed in Ramsgate, Kent - and it formed much of our spooky window display too! The cover artwork by Keith Robinson has a 'Nancy Drew'-esq style to it that feels so spookily retro, when all the best scary movies were made.

In the first book 'The Haunting of Aveline Jones', Aveline was haunted at Halloween in a seaside town and I've never looked at a scarecrow the same ways since; in the second, 'The Bewitching of Aveline Jones', she was staying in the countryside and discovered some very evil witchery; this time in 'The Vanishing of Aveline Jones', Aveline is beset upon by some mischievous ancient faeries that might possibly mean that we don't get a fourth book in this brilliant series in 2023!! Or so I thought...

About the book

What I love about these books is that they're rather clever. Aveline is a school girl who loves books, she loves to think outside the box, think of an alternative explanation. Hey, she's not always right! That's what her faithful sidekick, Harold, is there for and he has the best jokes (even the corny ones). Harold and Aveline met in the first book, and together they are the Doctor Watson to your Sherlock Holmes, who specialise in solving supernatural mysteries, usually in a race against evil to save themselves at the same time (pretty age-appropriate nail-biting stuff).

Aveline has broken up from school for the Christmas holidays and it's almost Christmas Day. Her mum, her mum's sister and Harold head to a village near Bristol in the southwest of England to stay at her Uncle's house while her mum and aunt sort out his belongings and the house sale. You see, Uncle Rowan disappeared without a trace 10 years ago...

Illustration © Keith Robinson
Illustration © Keith Robinson

There's a fascinating long barrow near to Uncle Rowan's house, an ancient burial mound, that seems to have kept him very busy before he went missing. Uncle Rowan is an archeologist and once Aveline and Harold find the key to his study (after a very interesting ghostly figure points to the hiding place in the dark of night) they find out that there is more to his disappearance than once thought. There are also some very unusual relics from the past that hold some vital clues... cassette tapes!

Finding a local blog about other unexplained disappearances, the kids decide to meet the blog's author for more clues, chaperoned by their aunt. The blogger turns out to be an 11 year old schoolboy called Sammy. Thanks to Sammy, the sleuths learn more about the long barrow and its connection to faeries (total tricksters), and that it's very dangerous. Didn't they know that long barrows are said to be "gateways to the dead"? What's more, faeries can lure people into their world inside the long barrow, never to be seen again... is this what happened to Uncle Rowan, and the others who simply VANISHED?

Illustration © Keith Robinson
Illustration © Keith Robinson

Aveline and Harold realise that it is the midwinter solstice the very next day, and that it will be exactly 10 years since Uncle Rowan's disappearance. The long barrow must hold the answers. One by one the children find themselves lost in a dark and mystical world filled with misshapen memories and visions, as they come to realise that they are at the mercy of the Master of Traps itself, Lord Hemlock, Lord of the Long Barrow... a very angry faerie!!

Illustration © Keith Robinson
Illustration © Keith Robinson

The clock is ticking as the sun's rays of the solstice slowly fade. Will Aveline's instincts save the day and release them all from Lord Hemlock's clutches? There are some SERIOUSLY gripping chapters towards the end of the book, as the mystery unfolds and the children fight for their freedom.

Of course I'm not going to let you know what happens, and I have left LOADS of juicy clues and plot moments for you to discover for yourselves, however, I do feel so happy that there is a very obvious hint towards the end of the story that there'll be a book 4... which means my annual fix of an Aveline Jones supernatural middle grade mystery is on for 2023. Two thumbs up!

The book features superb illustrations, and mood-setting quotes at the beginning of each chapter like: “Fairies are frequently described as being peevish, irritable, and revengeful to a degree” (British Fairy Origins, Lewis Spence, 1946), or, “Sometimes one may thus go to Faerie for an hour or two; or one may remain there for seven, fourteen or twenty-one years” (The Fairy-Faith in Celtic Countries, Walter Evans-Wentz, 1911). So, are you a believer?

Find out about a real life long barrow in England

About the creator

Phil Hickes (author)

Born in the UK, Phil now lives with his wife in Oregon, where

he works as an advertising copywriter. He has a passion for horror, ghosts, and all things that go bump in the night.


Keith Robinson (illustrator)

When Keith was small he was desperate to get to Narnia. He had a habit of walking into other people’s wardrobes, which must have been awkward for his parents. Eventually he discovered the next best way of travelling to other worlds was to lose himself in drawing them.

Keith loves illustrating children’s fiction. Getting lost in a good story and expressing the characters, setting and atmosphere through drawing is still the best kind of escapism he knows. It also means he no longer feels the need to walk into wardrobes. His work is informed by a love of nature, myth and history, all of which can be found in abundance where he lives, on the Devon-Dorset border. The beautiful landscape of the West Country, the stunning scenery of the Jurassic Coast and the wilds of nearby Dartmoor provide a constant source of inspiration. When Keith isn't working he enjoys hiking, camping, beach-combing, playing the guitar and rummaging through second-hand book shops.

Keith lives with his wife and two children in a woodland cottage near the seaside town of Lyme Regis. He works from his studio in the garden. Everyone else calls it a shed but he insists that it’s a ‘studio’.


Key themes




mystery solving

problem solving

using clues






Grab a copy

Buy here through my affiliate link at or purchase from your local independent bookshop...

Publication date: 27 October 2022

Format: Paperback

Also in this series:

*My advance review copy was kindly provided by the publisher digitally via Netgalley.

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