Title: The Haunted Purse
Author: Kimberly Baer
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal
That old denim purse Libby Dawson bought at the thrift store isn’t your run-of-the-mill teenage tote. It’s a bag of secrets, imbued with supernatural powers. Strange items keep turning up inside, clues to a decades-old mystery only Libby can solve.
Filled with apprehension and yet intrigued by the mounting pile of evidence, Libby digs for the truth. And eventually finds it. But the story of the purse is darker than she imagined—and its next horrific chapter is going to be all about her.
Toni asked, “Do you think we should tell my mom about the purse?”
“No,” I said. I wasn’t ready to trust an adult. Not even Toni’s mom, nice as she was. “Your mom is like you,” I added. “Practical. It would take a long time to convince her there’s something supernatural going on.”
We went back to watching the purse. There was a moment when I thought I saw it twitch, but that might have been my imagination.
“You could always get rid of it,” Toni said. “You know, donate it back to the thrift store.”
I considered that. “I could. But I don’t want to. Not yet, anyway. This purse is the coolest thing I’ve ever owned. I want to find out more about it. I want to see what it does next.”
She took her eyes from the purse long enough to glance at me. “Aren’t you afraid it’ll crawl into your bed some night and strangle you with its straps?”
“No. I think it’s trying to get my attention. It’s trying to tell me something.”
I didn’t have a clue.
“Did the perfume ever come back?”
“Maybe it came back when my jeans did. We should check.”
So I upended the purse, shaking its contents onto the floor. The little bottle of perfume wasn’t there. But something else was—the photo of the brown-haired girl, the one that had appeared in the purse the day I’d bought it and then promptly disappeared.
I picked up the picture, and Toni and I gazed down at the smiling girl, who had my very own purse clutched against her hip. An odd tingle went through me. I’d gotten so used to the purse being mine, I sometimes forgot it had a history I hadn’t been a part of.
“I wonder if the purse made stuff disappear when it belonged to her,” I mused. “And where did it come from? Did somebody give it to her as a gift? Did she buy it new at the mall? Did she get it at a thrift store like I did?”
“Good questions. Let’s track her down and get some answers.”
I shook my head, not in refusal, but in doubt. “How? We don’t even know her name.”
Toni, who had been staring intently at the photo, suddenly snatched it out of my hand. “Hey, I know this house. We pass it sometimes on the way to my dad’s place. Mason calls it the castle house.”
“You’re sure it’s the same place?”
“Pretty sure. I mean, it’s a different color now, but how many houses do you know of with this round thingie out front?”
“Turret,” I said. “The round thingie is called a turret.”
“We have to go there,” Toni said. “We can get there by bus. It’s, like, six miles from here.”
“But we don’t even know that’s where she lived. Maybe it’s just some random house that happened to be behind her when she got her picture taken. And even if she did live there, she probably doesn’t any more. Nineteen ninety-eight was a long time ago.”
“Her parents might still be there. And if they aren’t, whoever’s living there now might be able to tell us their name.”
Studying Toni’s determined face, I had to bite back a smile. I couldn’t believe how quickly she’d gone from scoffing at the notion that my purse had supernatural powers to embracing the fact that it did. Now she wanted to solve the mystery just as much as I did.
“Yeah, it’s worth a try.” I took the photo from Toni and started to put it back in my purse. She grabbed my wrist.
“I’ll take care of that picture. We don’t want it to disappear again, now do we?”
Toni and I planned our excursion to the castle house for a Saturday in early May. Toni’s mom was working the day shift, and Mason was traveling to a science museum with his friend Albert’s family. I said my mom would be gone all day, too, which wasn’t a lie.
We walked to the bus stop around ten a.m. and boarded the bus for Penbridge. As we slid into an empty seat, we grinned at each other with the festive air of travelers on an exotic vacation.
The house was less than seven miles away, but the bus ride took forty-five minutes because of all the stops. People got on, people got off, yet the bus was never more than two-thirds full. Toni and I took turns playing a hand-held video game she’d swiped from Mason’s room. Then we studied the photo of the girl.
“So if she was our age in nineteen ninety-eight,” Toni said, “right now she’d be…?”
She looked expectantly at me. Toni hated math and refused to do even the simplest mental calculations.
“Thirty-five,” I said. “Ish.”
“Ooh—Fortune Street; this is where we get off,” Toni said as the bus wheezed to a stop.
I grabbed my denim purse from under the seat and slipped the photo into it. My lunch was also inside, but I wasn’t worried that either it or the photo would disappear. Nothing had gone missing since Toni’s birthday. I was pretty sure the purse had been making things vanish to get my attention. Now that Toni and I had started looking for the girl, it was satisfied. We were doing what it wanted us to do.
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What’s the first binge-worthy book you read and why was it a must-read?
The Secret in the Old Attic, by Carolyn Keene. I was seven, and it was my very first Nancy Drew mystery story. I think I read it in a day. There were bad guys and secret passageways, and at one point Nancy was tied up and left in an attic with a loose tarantula (which I now realize is a rather hit-or-miss way of trying to kill somebody). I couldn’t stop turning pages. I had to find out what happened.
What makes your featured book a binge-worthy read?
The Haunted Purse is unpredictable. I don’t expect anyone to get a few chapters in and think, “Yeah, I know exactly how this is going to play out.” There are twists and turns throughout the story that are sure to keep readers guessing. (But no attempted murder by tarantula—I promise!)
One lucky reader will win a $75 Amazon (US) gift card.
Open internationally. You must have a valid Amazon US account to win.
Runs August 1 – 31
Drawing will be held on September 1.
Kimberly Baer is an author and professional editor who was born and raised in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, a town marginally famous for having endured three major floods—and she lived there during one of them. She currently lives in Virginia. Kim has had her nose in a book practically since birth, and she decided early on that she wanted to be on the giving end of the reading experience as well as the receiving end. Her first story, written at age six, was about a baby chick that hatched out of a little girl’s Easter egg after somehow surviving the hard-boiling process. Her recent focus has been on writing middle-grade and young adult fiction. She no longer writes about eggs.
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