The girls’ mismatched partnership could be a pleasure, if only Evaline could stake the excruciating dialect as easily as she...


From the Stoker & Holmes series , Vol. 2

A second steampunk adventure of the great detective and the vampire slayer, proper young ladies (The Clockwork Scarab, 2013).

Evaline Stoker (sister of Bram) and Mina Holmes (niece of Sherlock) are a crabby crime-solving duo in an 1889 London where electricity is illegal and steam-powered technology is the order of the day. The great Irene Adler has another royal commission for them: to assist Miss Willa Ashton, who is being taking advantage of by spiritualists. Mina applies her powers of observation to the task, while Evaline, who wants nothing more than an enemy she can punch, is relieved to find vampires are involved. The girls must solve the mystery with only the oddest clues—“Crickets. Pickpockets. UnDead”—while preserving Miss Ashton’s life and sanity. Both girls have romances that seem to prioritize schoolyard sniping over affection. Mina primarily has feelings for clever Inspector Grayling, while Evaline flirts with Pix, an underworld figure whose cockney thieves’ cant, like that of all the lower classes here, is inaccurate, distracting and unpronounceable. An oversupply of characters leaves some so underused as to be clutter. Dylan the time traveler, for example, seems to exist only to provide a third point in Mina’s love triangle while uttering 21st-century pop-culture references.

The girls’ mismatched partnership could be a pleasure, if only Evaline could stake the excruciating dialect as easily as she skewers vampires . (Steampunk/mystery. 12-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 7, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4521-10714

Page Count: 360

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 27, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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A trilogy opener both rich and strange, if heavy at the front end.


From the Peculiar Children series , Vol. 1

Riggs spins a gothic tale of strangely gifted children and the monsters that pursue them from a set of eerie, old trick photographs.

The brutal murder of his grandfather and a glimpse of a man with a mouth full of tentacles prompts months of nightmares and psychotherapy for 15-year-old Jacob, followed by a visit to a remote Welsh island where, his grandfather had always claimed, there lived children who could fly, lift boulders and display like weird abilities. The stories turn out to be true—but Jacob discovers that he has unwittingly exposed the sheltered “peculiar spirits” (of which he turns out to be one) and their werefalcon protector to a murderous hollowgast and its shape-changing servant wight. The interspersed photographs—gathered at flea markets and from collectors—nearly all seem to have been created in the late 19th or early 20th centuries and generally feature stone-faced figures, mostly children, in inscrutable costumes and situations. They are seen floating in the air, posing with a disreputable-looking Santa, covered in bees, dressed in rags and kneeling on a bomb, among other surreal images. Though Jacob’s overdeveloped back story gives the tale a slow start, the pictures add an eldritch element from the early going, and along with creepy bad guys, the author tucks in suspenseful chases and splashes of gore as he goes. He also whirls a major storm, flying bullets and a time loop into a wild climax that leaves Jacob poised for the sequel.

A trilogy opener both rich and strange, if heavy at the front end. (Horror/fantasy. 12-14)

Pub Date: June 7, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-59474-476-1

Page Count: 234

Publisher: Quirk Books

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2014

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In an unnamed country (a thinly veiled Philippines), three teenage boys pick trash for a meager living. A bag of cash in the trash might be—well, not their ticket out of poverty but at least a minor windfall. With 1,100 pesos, maybe they can eat chicken occasionally, instead of just rice. Gardo and Raphael are determined not to give any of it to the police who've been sniffing around, so they enlist their friend Rat. In alternating and tightly paced points of view, supplemented by occasional other voices, the boys relate the intrigue in which they're quickly enmeshed. A murdered houseboy, an orphaned girl, a treasure map, a secret code, corrupt politicians and 10,000,000 missing dollars: It all adds up to a cracker of a thriller. Sadly, the setting relies on Third World poverty tourism for its flavor, as if this otherwise enjoyable caper were being told by Olivia, the story's British charity worker who muses with vacuous sentimentality on the children that "break your heart" and "change your life." Nevertheless, a zippy and classic briefcase-full-of-money thrill ride. (Thriller. 12-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-385-75214-5

Page Count: 240

Publisher: David Fickling/Random

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2010

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