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The Chessmen of Doom
John Bellairs
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The Chessmen of Doom

(Johnny Dixon #7)

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  697 Ratings  ·  39 Reviews
Johnny Dixon, Fergie and Professor Childermass comply with a strange will left by the Professor's brother, which requires them to spend the summer at a desolate estate where they encounter a madman bent on destroying the world.
Paperback, 155 pages
Published November 30th 1989 by Dial Books
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This book has the magic. It was so good. It is set in Maine at a big mansion in the middle of nowhere. Johnny, the professor and Fergie need to spend the summer at this mansion so the professor can inherit it from his brother. Sounds like a nice summer to everyone. It is not so easy as all that.

I love John Bellairs. His writing style is so simple and straight forward. He seems like he was classically trained. He knows latin and the Roman emperor's and this time around Astronomy and Astrology. He
This book was good for a quick read, but I don't think it'll be one I think back to very often. I'm just going to do a very quick review:

- atmosphere (spooky and eerie; very good)
- pacing (follows a standard "mountain path" plot, but it does so very well)

In the Middle:
- plot (pretty good for the most part, but some things felt a bit too convenient)
- writing (it did the job)

- characters (pretty replaceable and flat for the most part)

Last book of 2007! John Bellairs's Johnny Dixon books are notable not just for being above-average gothic horror for young folks, but also because older editions have some absolutely terrifying Edward Gorey covers and frontspieces. The stories don't creep me out as much as they did when I was a kid, but of lordy those illustrations.
Apr 09, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This isn't even my very favorite Bellairs, and it's still fab. I think I like the House with a Clock in its Walls, or the one about the secret abandoned railway better, but they are all so enjoyable. Always a great mix of mystery, adventure, and pre-Harry Potter magic.
Richard Denney
Aug 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Read it when I was younger but re-read it for #JOHNBELLAIRSMONTH. Still as awesome and spooky as before. :)
Nov 10, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love John Bellairs, so spooky and silly! Not as good as the Lewis Barnavelt/Rose Rita stories, but still fun!
Jan Yip
Nov 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
childhood favorite....I Loved all John Bellairs' books!
Alec Hawkins
May 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you are reading Bellairs for the occult elements, this entry in the Johnny Dixon series may be the best in that regard. The characters and overall story-arch are the standard for a Bellairs mystery but the atmosphere and danger these characters get into make-up for the minor short comings.
Mar 07, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After the disappointing TROLLEY TO YESTERDAY, this books is a return to form for Bellairs. Instead of the weird slapstick comedy of the previous installment, Johnny, Fergie, and the Professor are back in familiar creepy territory. This time, the boys and the professor have to deal with mysterious happenings in an old estate that was once owned by the professor's brother. As usual, there are mysterious forces at work, and time is running out for our protagonists.

While there are several unbelievab
She's Stacked  (Jo-Anne)
I had high hopes for this book based on my memories of "A House With A Clock In Its Walls" which I read a few times when I was younger. The elements of witchcraft and demonic activities are still present but the book just wasn't as scary. It had a lot of potential but it was very dismal in its point of view - almost despairing. It felt like it was always on the brink of excitement. I didn't feel as connected to the characters as I had to the characters in "A House With..." I shall have to go bac ...more
Greg Kerestan
Apr 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After a slight genre misstep in volume 6, "The Chessmen of Doom" restores the Johnny Dixon series to its oddball gothic glory, complete with necromancy, elaborate tombs and moldering New England architectural follies. To an extent, Bellairs has gotten in over his head here: so many of the rococo details (the tower and statue, the mysterious "communicating tomb" and the observatory) seem to be red herrings or unloaded Chekhov's guns. But in a way, that's part of the charm- the weirdness of the Jo ...more
Justin  K. Rivers
Jun 21, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of my favorites, this Johnny/Prof Childermass adventure has some great cliffhangers (including one of my all-time favorites) and some odd, creepy ideas, not least of which is the fantastic setting of a sprawling, run-down estate in Maine.

My only complaint here is that, despite some first-rate ingredients, a lot of the plot hinges on coincidences and supposition that seem to fly in from nowhere-land.
Heather Jackson
Not as engaging...

I started reading the Johnny Dixon books as a child. I picked them up again recently, including the stories I hadn't read then. This wasn't a bad story, but it was less engaging than the others have been. There was less compelling motivation to solve the mystery and less detail surrounding the story compared to earlier books. It's probably great for the intended audience.
Oct 29, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: youth-fiction
Second time around for this one and even better than I remembered. It's too bad that the publishers saw fit to give my later edition a different cover. Gorey is crucial to the Bellairs experience.

Third time: "The earth will be a smoldering ball of rubble...but I will survive as a spirit with heightened consciousness and great power. But why should I spend my time explaining things to morons?"

Story of my life.
Cupof Tea
The Lewis Chessmen make an appearance in here. I thought the set-up of this book (the Professor must spend the summer in an old mansion to win his brother's millions in inheritance) had promise, but the follow though was weak. I guess I am used to urban fantasy with a little more explanation as an adult than I did as a child reading this series.
Dec 16, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the better stories in the Johnny Dixon Series. Bellairs didn't call into the standard formula of the previous books: weird things happen, the adults scoff, the kids plunge ahead and the adults rush to catch up. The tension was nicely ratcheted in the last third of the book and while the ultimate solution was a Deus ex Machina, it was reasonably plausible.
Lisa Kucharski
Sep 25, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Professor Childermass's last brother dies and leaves him a will where he must stay the house for a specific time to get a large inheritance. The interesting thing about this story is that it involves the Professor. The set up and events that take place really move and work the creepy factor well.

Luckily the secret messages of ghosts get decoded!
This book series strikes me as the type that childhood readers fondly remember and occasionally reread, but exist as great books only in the realm of nostalgia. This one was a quick, easy read and I probably would have really enjoyed the mystery and magical elements as a kid, but as an It was fine.
Oh, 12-year-old self.

100 pages of awesome (eccentric WWI vet/professor whose brother leaves him a haunted mansion and a doomsday prophecy) followed by 55 pages of drek (slow pacing, too much Fergie, deus ex machina and bonus misogyny). But those first 100 pages do give good Maine, so there's that.
Kindle Unlimited | I'm not going to continue with the series. The formula is too obvious, the characters don't grow and take no lessons from previous experiences, but worst is Fergie. He is not Johnny's friend, he's a real jerk, treats Johnny worse even than the Professor, and taunts and intimidates Johnny into dangerous rule-breaking. Holding this kid up as a good friend is too irritating.
Jun 22, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This is a ridiculous book. It promised to be an interesting puzzle mystery, but ended far outside the bounds of reality. I found myself wishing for the Hardy Boys to turn up and save this mess. Alas, it was not to be.
Jan 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the second book in th Johnny Dixon series and one of the best. I would reccomend this book to everyone who likes mystery. This book has some scary parts which will make you pee i n your pants. This book is cool.
Catherine  Mustread
Grades 5+. Johnny Dixon, Fergie and Prof. Childermass spend the summer at a desolate estate in Maine where they encounter a madman bent on destroying the world.
William Bevill
Dec 17, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014-read
One of the more riveting and well told stories with Johnny Dixon and the Professor, a ton of fun and a good amount of spook and some mildly creepy & disturbing stuff for a kid's book.
Tessa in Mid-Michigan
Dated, poor plot, etc.
Aug 18, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
For the short book that this was, it has been pleasantly creepy and interesting. If this would have been a full-sized novel though, I don't know: still, very enjoyable.
Bellairs is such a great writer for kids. The perfect mix of magic and adventure. They hold up well rereading as an adult.
Amanda Langdon
Great Suspense/Thriller for Young Readers
Dec 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
i have read every single one of them, childhood favorites but this is the best one!! still re-read them
Nov 02, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this to get in the mood for Halloween. I am sad to say it wasn't as good as I remembered it as a kid.
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John Bellairs (1938–1991) was an American novelist working primarily in the Gothic genre. He is best-known for the children's classic The House with a Clock in its Walls 1973) and for the pathbreaking fantasy novel The Face in the Frost (1969). Bellairs held a bachelor's degree from Notre Dame University and a master's in English from the University of Chicago. He combined writing and teaching f ...more

Other books in the series

Johnny Dixon (1 - 10 of 12 books)
  • The Curse of the Blue Figurine (Johnny Dixon, #1)
  • The Mummy, the Will, and the Crypt (Johnny Dixon, #2)
  • The Spell of the Sorcerer's Skull (Johnny Dixon, #3)
  • The Revenge of the Wizard's Ghost (Johnny Dixon, #4)
  • The Eyes of the Killer Robot
  • The Trolley to Yesterday
  • The Secret of the Underground Room (Johnny Dixon, #8)
  • The Drum, the Doll, and the Zombie
  • The Hand of the Necromancer (Johnny Dixon, #10)
  • The Bell, the Book, and the Spellbinder (Johnny Dixon, #11)