This is the first, and only?, direct sequel in the 'Johnny Dixon' series, and it may be why I remembered not liking this one as a kid. Most of Bellairs' work can be read independently, but 'Revenge' jumps right into one of Johnny's patented freaky dreams. An old man threatens Johnny, saying he's done his family a wrong, and that the ghost of Warren Windrow still roams. Warren Windrow is the 'Sorcerer' whose bespelled skull caused so much trouble last time.
Of course, Johnny doesn't tell anyone about the dream. This series. They either keep supernatural events a secret because they're embarrassed, or they disbelieve each other. Johnny starts sleep-walking and acting ornery, and has strong visions of saloons and gambling dens. Eventually, he becomes comatose and even an impromptu exorcism attempt by Father Higgins doesn't help.
As a kid, this one left me a little confused. I didn't read these in order so the abrupt revenge-plot left me in the dark. Also, with Johnny out of the picture we have the Professor and Fergie on a multi-day expedition to the Windrow estate to find ancient magical talismans (straight out of the Bible) that may be Johnny's last hope.
The saving grace of this book, as with many others of Bellairs, are some genuine horror elements out of nowhere that keep a reader off guard, and the period details that evoke midcentury American boyhood and, in this case, Gold Rush-era California.
Next: 'The Eyes of the Killer Robot'
Previous: 'The Spell of the Sorcerer's Skull'