Deep and Dark and Dangerous

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Deep and Dark and Dangerous
Author Mary Downing Hahn
Country United States
Language English
Published 2007, Clarion Books
Media type Print, ebook, audiobook
Pages 187 pages
ISBN 0618665455

Deep and Dark and Dangerous is a 2007 children's mystery horror novel written by Mary Downing Hahn. It was first published on May 21, 2007 through Clarion Books and follows a young girl who tries to investigate a torn photograph but gets wrapped up in a larger mystery.


Thirteen-year-old Alison O'Dywer is thrilled at the prospect of spending the summer at a lakehouse in Maine as babysitter for her aunt Dulcie's adorable daughter Emma, rather than spending the summer at home with her own moody, sickly mother Claire. Prior to leaving for the lakehouse, Alison discovers a photo of her aunt and mother as young girls; a third girl, labeled only T, has been torn from the photo. Claire claims not to remember who the third girl was.

At the lake, Emma befriends a rude, belligerent girl named Sissy. Sissy becomes ever more intrusive and vicious, barging into the house uninvited and terrifying Emma with ghost stories about a girl named Teresa who drown in the lake years before. Alison finds more and more evidence that Teresa might have been the mysterious T who was torn from the photograph, but Dulcie denies that such a girl ever existed.

Both Alison and Dulcie are concerned when sweet-tempered Emma begins to act more and more like her new "friend," including throwing tantrums and disobeying. After Sissy nearly drowns Emma while the two are swimming, Alison realizes that Sissy is not merely a bad influence, but dangerous. Dulcie, who has yet to meet Sissy face to face, agrees that Sissy should not be allowed near Emma. The next time Sissy appears, Alison forbids her from seeing Emma again, but Sissy is able to lure Emma away by promising her a doll she particularly covets. Dulcie is shocked to recognize the doll, which is mildewed and rotten from being at the bottom of the lake.

Finally Dulcie confesses the truth: Teresa was a bratty little girl who used to pick on Alison's mother Claire when they visited the lake as children. Dulcie, who resented Claire for being scared of everything, including the lake, used to side with Teresa to bully Claire. One day Teresa stole Claire's doll and climbed into a small boat, threatening to throw the doll overboard if Claire did not join her. Dulcie and Claire boarded the boat, and Teresa and Dulcie tossed the doll over Claire's head until she became hysterical. Dulcie, fed up with both Teresa and Claire, threw the doll into the lake. To her shock, Teresa jumped into the water to save the doll and never emerged. Frightened that they would be blamed for Teresa's death, Dulcie and Clair pretended to know nothing of what happened to her. Teresa's body was never recovered and the family never returned to the lakehouse. Dulcie shows Alison a whole copy of the torn photograph; Alison recognizes the third girl as Sissy.

Sissy reappears and admits that she is Teresa, forever bound to the lake since her body was never found, and that she caused the drowning deaths that have occurred every summer since. Sissy demands that Dulcie be punished for "murdering" her; if she is not, Sissy will go on haunting the lake and tormenting the family.

Dulcie confesses the whole story first to a lawyer and then to the town police, only to be told by both that the circumstances described mean that Teresa's death was an accident, and that Dulcie would not have been held responsible even if she had confessed immediately. Unsatisfied with this outcome, Sissy demands that Dulcie confess to the entire town. Dulcie goes to the town newspaper, which agrees to print the story. Meanwhile, Sissy secretly tells Emma where to find her body. When the newspaper comes to take photographs for the article, Emma announces what Sissy told her, and the resulting story revives enough interest in the case that the state police send divers to search the lake. Sissy's bones are found exactly where Emma said they would be. The unusual story becomes national news, and Sissy is at last satisfied that Dulcie's secret has been exposed. Sissy's living relatives learn of her discovery and makes arrangements to bury her.

Alison meets Sissy one last time to tell her about the upcoming funeral. Sissy, now much less hostile and more mournful of the life she never got to live, tells Alison that once the funeral is over, she will leave the lake forever. Dulcie and Claire attend the funeral, which gives them the closure they need over their part in Sissy's death and allows them to let go of their resentments toward each other and reconnect. While bringing flowers to Sissy's grave with Alison, Emma finds the doll she was promised, now fully restored and beautiful, and takes it home.


Critical reception was mostly positive.[1][2] Kirkus Reviews gave the book a positive review and stated that the book had a "satisfyingly chilly but calm resolution".[3] Kliatt also gave Deep and Dark and Dangerous a positive rating, commenting that the book's foreshadowing "is a bit heavy-handed" but overall writing that it "provides just the right amount of shiver for this age group without scarring them for life."[4] The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books remarked that while the book did not live up to some of Hahn's previous works such as Wait Till Helen Comes, it had "a compact and approachable shiveriness that would make it an easygoing vacation read."[5]


  • Edgar Award for Young Adult (2008, nominated)[6]
  • Maud Hart Lovelace book award (2011, won)[7]


  1. ^ "Deep and Dark and Dangerous (review)". Booklist. Retrieved 13 May 2014. 
  2. ^ "Deep and Dark and Dangerous (REVIEW)". School Library Journal. Retrieved 13 May 2014. 
  3. ^ "Deep and Dark and Dangerous (review)". Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved 13 May 2014. 
  4. ^ Hoy, Sherry (November 1, 2008). "Hahn, Mary Downing. Deep and dark and dangerous.(Young adult review)". Kliatt (subscription required). Retrieved 13 May 2014. 
  5. ^ Stevenson, Deborah (2007). "Deep and Dark and Dangerous: A Ghost Story (review)". Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books. 61 (1): 28. doi:10.1353/bcc.2007.0614. Retrieved 13 May 2014. 
  6. ^ "Edgar nominees.(Edgar Allan Poe Awards)(Brief article)". Bookmarks (subscription required). March 1, 2008. Retrieved 13 May 2014. 
  7. ^ "'Deep and Dark' wins Lovelace book award Jones signing 'Baseball Guy' at fundraiser Eric Dregni to sign 'Vikings in the Attic'". Twin Cities. Retrieved 13 May 2014. 
Preceded by
The Sea of Monsters
Mark Twain Award
Succeeded by
Stolen Children