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The Back Door of Midnight

Part of Dark Secrets

About The Book

Psychic...or psychotic?

Anna knows her family is crazy. But when she goes to visit her aunt and uncle for the summer and learns that her uncle’s charred body has been found, her life reaches a new level of insanity. Her erratic aunt’s “psychic” abilities are exaggerated by her grief, and have become borderline violent. Alone in an unfamiliar town, Anna struggles to pick up the pieces and establish any sense of normalcy. She desperately wants to trust Zack, the cute boy next door, but even he might know more about the incident than he is letting on.

But when Anna starts feeling an inexplicable pull to the site of her uncle’s murder, she begins to believe that her family’s supernatural gifts are real after all. Torn between loyalty and suspicion, Anna is certain of only one thing: she must discover who killed her uncle or she could be next….



IT BEGAN AFTER midnight with a low hum, an electric buzz like that of a bass guitar string. The sound grew louder and I tried to cover my head with a pillow, but my arms, heavy with sleep, wouldn’t move.

I struggled to sit up; I was paralyzed. Frightened, I tried to call out, but my mouth wouldn’t move. An odd sensation began in my feet and traveled up my body, each nerve ending tingling with electric energy. Stop! I thought. Please stop!

Anna. Let go.

It was a woman’s voice that spoke to me, a familiar voice, but I didn’t know where or when I had heard it. Years ago, I thought. Struggling to recall the person, I momentarily forgot my fear.

The vibrations stopped, and I stood up. I was surrounded by darkness. In the distance an orange light shone. As I moved toward it, I heard a confusion of voices, people talking and laughing. The orange light flickered, and I heard crackling sounds. I could smell now—acrid smoke. I was at a fire.

An object whistled close to my ears and exploded, glass against metal. A siren wailed. I heard feet—heard, rather than saw clearly, people running, panicking. I panicked too. I didn’t know who these people were or which way to turn, but instinct told me to get away from there. Then I heard someone else calling my name, a man this time. My uncle was calling to me from the fire.

Anna, be careful.

There were more sirens, the wailing growing closer.

Anna, be careful.

Uncle Will? I answered, moving in the direction of his voice.

The fire surrounded me. I could see the flames like clothing on me, yet I felt no pain, no burning. I reached out my hand, then pulled it back in horror. I had seen through it. I slowly put out my left hand, then my right: They were transparent. Was I dead? Was it possible to die and not know it?

Help! I called out. Help! Uncle Will! I want to go home.

I was plucked out of the ghostly fire, reeled in like a fish. Opening my eyes, I found myself in bed at home. The two beds next to mine were empty.

“Grace? Claire?”


Then I saw my suitcase and remembered: The twins, Jack, and Mom had left early that morning. I was alone. Next to my suitcase was a plastic bag filled with summer clothes, enough for two months away. I had been dreaming—obviously—and yet I would have sworn that I had actually heard Uncle Will’s voice. A letter from him lay on top of my suitcase.

I knew the letter by heart, but I climbed out of bed and carried it to the window, pushing back the curtain, unfolding the paper to read by the orange light of a streetlamp.

May 23

Dear Anna,

Would you visit us this summer? The sooner the
better. Aunt Iris is doing poorly, and there are
things I must tell you about your mother and our
family. I want to do so while I am still

Uncle Will

My uncle’s invitation had come as a surprise. Eighteen years ago, he and his sister, Iris, both single, had taken in my birth mother, who was pregnant with me. Joanna died in a violent robbery when I was three, and I continued to live with my great-aunt and great-uncle for two more years, before I was adopted by Kathryn, the only person I think of as “Mom.”

Since then, Great-Uncle Will had stayed in touch with me by traveling to Baltimore once a year. He didn’t like cities, but liked communicating by telephone and computer even less. I loved him and he loved me; still our conversations were awkward.

I never heard from Great-Aunt Iris. When I was older it was explained to me that she was not the most stable person in the world—apparently she heard voices and claimed to be psychic. Until now I had never been asked back to the O’Neill home on Maryland’s Eastrn Shore—perhaps to protect me from bad memories of my birth mother’s death.

The truth was, I remembered Joanna only through her photos. My family was Jack, age seven; Grace and Claire, six; and our dog, Rose—all of us adopted by Mom, living in a skinny brick town house.

There were lots of days I had dreamed of escaping our crowded home; now, having achieved a college scholarship that would allow me to do that, I was getting sentimental over sticky hugs, dog hair, even the sharp little Barbie shoes and Matchbox cars left in my bed. I wanted to spend the summer with my family, but I felt I owed it to Uncle Will, and maybe to Aunt Iris, to visit.

Besides, I was curious. With my brain crammed full of chemistry and calculus, world history and lit, maybe it was time to learn something never asked on the SATs: who I was.

© 2010 Mary Claire Helldorfer

About The Author

Elizabeth Chandler is a pseudonym for Mary Claire Helldorfer. She is the author of the Kissed by an Angel and Dark Secrets series. She lives in Baltimore, Maryland.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon Pulse (November 16, 2010)
  • Length: 320 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781442406261
  • Grades: 7 and up
  • Ages: 12 - 99

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Raves and Reviews

"Chandler does a fantastic job of keeping readers on edge and creating a suspenseful mood and tone. This is an excellent stand-alone book that is sure to be popular."
- SLJ January 2011

"This book is a classic teen mystery/romance that may appeal to teens who were enthralled with the Twilight series. It is fast-paced, humorous, and light yet deals with some serious issues. Searching for your roots, dealing with dementia and mental illness, and finding independence are all touched upon in this third volume of the Dark Secrets series. The book is great for a short winter escape, or a long plane ride. It is a quick read with just enough suspense to keep you reading to solve the mystery. The characters are superficial but the storyline moves and is very timely. It is not the type of book you would write an English essay about, but it is great for a quick escape."—VOYA

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More books from this author: Elizabeth Chandler

More books in this series: Dark Secrets