This is another one of those cases where I don't remember sufficient details to say for certain if this is fantasy or not. It was a young adult book. I'm pretty certain I read it in hardback somewhere in the mid 1990s in the United States as a library book. The main character is a teenage boy from the United States whose family is under the sway of a deadly curse (I believe they keep dying in accidents). He is the last remaining male of his family and so he travels to Scotland to find something related to breaking the curse, possibly the ancestral home. While there, he meets a redheaded teenage girl who seems oddly tied to his quest. At times she seems to be helping him and sometimes she seems to be fighting him.

Eventually, he learns that she's part of a rival family, possibly part of the family curse, and is under orders by her uncle, who's trying to kill the boy. The "curse" is due to a betrayal by ancestors in the two families.

Near the end of the book, they find the place important to his family history, wherein he's seeking a treasure. He learns the truth about the girl, but she decides to side with him. I think there was a treasure they were looking for.

For some reason, I want to say that it had something to do with smoked fish, maybe herring... they find a barrel of it and initially it seems like it's one of those worthless "the treasure never existed except in legend" situations, but it actually turns out to be the key to him acquiring the family fortune, which was in the fish business. Oh, and the girl falls for him although I don't think it went any further than a kiss. This ends the curse, although I don't remember if it was something mystical or a matter of that the uncle is put out of commission and the girl decides she likes him.

The only other detail that sticks in my head is that one of the first times he meets with the girl is after he stays in a local inn as he begins his journey. I've tried searching on the details I remember, but all I seem to get are Romance novels about handsome men in kilts.

  • 1
    This sounds like The Hound of the Baskervilles (a Sherlock Holmes story) but is clearly not. I wonder if there is any connection; maybe you'd like that too?
    – Lan
    Jan 1, 2017 at 17:38
  • :) No, the answer is definitely the one below. I reread it and it matches up with my memories better than what I stated above.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Jan 1, 2017 at 18:14
  • I'm not 100% sure that this should be closed. At the time of writing, the OP believed it was Fantasy. (@Fuzzy you're probably the one who has cast the close vote right?). Also, slightly related: Is the story-ID question that turned out to be about the Axe commercial, on-topic?
    – Möoz
    Jan 3, 2017 at 3:11
  • :) I am indeed the person who cast the close vote. After casting it, and asking others to close, I learned that there is an exception for genuine belief that the piece does have SF&F qualities (with indication of what they are). I guess I just figured that, if it was proven there were none, it ought to be closed.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Jan 3, 2017 at 3:20

2 Answers 2


Drawing a Blank: Or How I Tried to Solve a Mystery, End a Feud, and Land the Girl of My Dreams by Daniel Ehrenhaft, Trevor Ristow (Illustrations)

Book cover

I don't know how this happened

One day I'm snug in my loner existence at Carnegie Mansion School, and the next I'm tramping through the Scottish wilderness looking for my dad. Who's been kidnapped. Because of a feud that started in medieval times. Or something. Suffice it to say, I never paid too much attention because I thought the whole thing was some twisted figment of my dad's imagination.

Now my only company is a wannabe cop who just might be my superhero dream girl. And if I don't deliver some piece of mysterious "proof" to the kidnappers, my dad is toast. I've got my fair share of issues with my dad, but I don't really want to see him burned to a crisp.

Anyway, you in?

This is not the first time I've been wrong about something.

  • Welcome to the site. Can you elaborate on how this title matches up with the question?
    – Politank-Z
    Nov 16, 2016 at 5:40
  • 1
    That looks very promising! Unfortunately, my library does not have a copy, but I'm putting a request in to ILL. If it is the book, I'll have to close it since it doesn't sound like the fantasy I remember, but that's something I can't determine until I have the book in hand.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Nov 16, 2016 at 12:28
  • 1
    Sorry u it took me so long. Definitely the one. And it's wholly mundane.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Dec 27, 2016 at 16:02
  • Incidentally, I got a number of details wrong. Aileen is blond. It's salmon ("red fish") that's referred to. The treasure is real (a dagger stolen by one family from the Romans, then stolen by the other, which ostensibly guaranteed the fish harvest). He meets her after she saves him from a runaway van and they go to the inn later. Still a good book.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Dec 29, 2016 at 2:46
  • @Adv3: Congrats! You get the bounty!
    – FuzzyBoots
    Jan 2, 2017 at 20:45

It kind of reminds me of Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake.

Some overlap although I do NOT remember any herring, nor that kiss.
Anyway no Scottish romance:

Cas is a ghost hunter of sorts. He uses his father’s knife to “kill” ghosts and set them free from the cycle of violence they are stuck in. He is obsessed about a ghost called Anna who has disappeared into some kind of nasty afterlife.

He is lured to England by an order who wants the knife back. On their way a girl called Jestine, who is connected to the order first attacks, then helps. The knife is both a doorway and a priceless treasure. The book ends with a ritual that should help the ghost Anna but also may kill both Cas and Jestine.

It is the second book of a duology and classifies as a ghost story.


  • It appears that Girl of Nightmares was published in 2012, not the 1990s.
    – Adamant
    Nov 13, 2016 at 17:45
  • Well then it probably is not it.
    – Bookeater
    Nov 13, 2016 at 17:54

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