Sixteen-year-old Zach isn't happy. His mother died two years earlier. This affected his father so deeply he lost interest in his high-powered London job as the managing director of an advertising agency; and subsequently lost the job itself. Their only chance of making ends meet has been to leave London behind and move in to a cliff-top cottage near the village of Portknockie, on the north Aberdeenshire coast. This had been his father's family home, and was occupied by his grandfather Alistair until his death ten years earlier, not long after Zach's grandmother disappeared in mysterious circumstances. Zach's plans for sixth form college after the summer break have had to be replaced by the prospect of immersion in a Scottish school system he doesn't understand. All his friends are in London, and he lives in hope that his father will change his mind about the move, which would mean he could avoid the need to unpack his stuff, still sitting in boxes in his room.
Things are no easier for Zach's father, who is viewed as overqualified for the few jobs that are available. While his father is out job-hunting, Zach clears out a filthy and overgrown pond in the garden of the cottage. Beneath its lining he finds the entrance to a shaft leading down into the earth. Zach descends, clearly repeating what his grandfather did years earlier, and discovers a glowing egg-shaped stone which, when returned to the surface, has amazing powers. Suddenly Zach is enjoying an incredible run of luck, and begins to realise that a wider range of abilities are also being conferred on him by the stone. The effects extend to his father, whose career is suddenly back on track. But... Zach is becoming increasingly concerned about the implications of his taking and using the stone, especially after discovering a scrapbook left by his grandfather in the loft of the cottage. Clearly the stone had brought his grandfather great ill fortune after initial good luck. Meanwhile Zach has met local girl Pepper, who seems even more adept at using the powers of the stone than Zach.
"The Slithers" by Philip Caveney develops steadily into a genuinely scary Gothic horror novel, and a book that delights with its invention at the same time as it sends shivers down your spine. Can good luck ever be enjoyed without harming others? And what happens when the result, or cause, of one person's good luck is the death of another? Grandad Alistair's scrapbook made it clear that he was forced to return the glowing stone to its rightful underground owners, but not before he was made to suffer terrible consequences for taking it in the first place. Can Zach avoid a similar disastrous outcome? The book builds to a stunning climax that leaves the reader in suspense right to the end. This is an outstanding novel for teen or young adult readers who can associate with the two central characters, Zach and Pepper.