Enjoyably campy horror set in a small town with, plainly, dark secrets aplenty yet to discover.

LOYALIST TO A FAULT

From the Dead Kid Detective Agency series , Vol. 3

Someone is systematically looting the town of Sticksville of its historical records in this third caper featuring punk teen detective October Schwartz and her five dead partners.

Break-ins at the museum and library are not only mysterious, but annoying, as they derail October’s efforts to dig into the late-18th-century history of a local family, a project that will both fulfil a school assignment and uncover how one of her ghostly young cohorts, Cyril Cooper, came to die. Moreover, October’s being stretched pretty thin. By day, she reluctantly tutors sharp-tongued frenemy Ashlie Salmons (aptly characterized as “Magneto to October Schwartz’s Professor X”) in math. By night, she sneaks out for investigations—which frequently involve clandestine entries, exploits such as digging up a corpse, and brushes with both police and violent death at the hands, or rather cutlass, of a glowing intruder in classic pirate garb—there’s hardly time to catch one’s breath, much less sleep. The intrusive narrator laces the episode with references to bands and other pop-culture icons that are collected, for less with-it readers, in a massive annotated appendix, and the book is decorated with occasional dark-lined vignettes. Alternating chapters switch typefaces and narrative form as the tale sweeps its terrified but stubborn protagonist through a series of narrowly averted threats to life and reputation alike on the way to a shocking denouement that further thickens an ongoing plotline.

Enjoyably campy horror set in a small town with, plainly, dark secrets aplenty yet to discover. (Mystery/fantasy. 12-15)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-77041-074-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: ECW Press

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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A draw for veterans and newcomers alike.

CONNECT THE SCOTTS

From the Dead Kid Detective Agency series , Vol. 4

October Schwartz and her five dead co-conspirators are back again to solve a double mystery tied to the unsavory history of Stickville, Ontario, in this fourth installment from Munday.

For this most recent round of resurrection, October and the dead kids plan to investigate the death of their own Tabetha Scott, a black girl who died a few years after her escape from slavery, and its possible connection to the sinister Asphodel Meadows society. The mystery only deepens when a furtive pair is seen making salt circles around children’s graves in the cemetery—circles the dead kids can’t pass through. As if her detective plate weren’t full enough, tensions skyrocket at school when $5,000 is stolen during the Band Warz competition, and the band accused of the crime asks October to clear their names. Munday’s narrative, mannered as ever with alternating narration and typeface changes, steers readers to consider systemic racism both as Tabetha slowly remembers her escape via the Underground Railroad and the discrimination she faced after arriving in Canada as well as the racist underpinnings of the frame job against the only nonwhite band at school arise. White guilt and angst over absolution—particularly October’s—is prioritized perhaps a touch too much, but a fairly elegant interweave of three mysteries that refuses to pull punches (historical or otherwise) regarding discrimination and with more than enough tantalizing intrigue and mortal danger to go around is enticing nonetheless.

A draw for veterans and newcomers alike. (Supernatural mystery. 12-15)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-77041-333-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: ECW Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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For readers who like (or at least don’t mind) continual authorial asides, a sturdy middle volume.

BAD LUCK

From the Bad Books series , Vol. 2

Still struggling to keep up with his wizardly fellow campers, Clay finally discovers his particular talent when the arrival of a large cruise ship touches off a round of assaults and rescues on remote Price Island.

It seems there’s a secret sleeping at the heart of the island’s all-too-active volcano, and Brett Perry, genially vicious owner of the luxury liner Imperial Conquest, has come to seize it for the nefarious Midnight Sun society. Against his horde of well-armed thugs, it would seem that his chubby 12-year-old son, Brett Jr.—plus Clay, airy kleptomaniac Leira (spell it backward), and other residents of Earth Ranch—stands no chance of mounting any effective resistance. But when there is magic in the air and also a new ally who has the young folk envisioning a “Titanic meets Godzilla” scenario, anything becomes possible. More intrusive than ever, “Bosch” not only lays in fussy digressions and many wordy footnotes, he even dedicates the story to himself (with his real name) and inserts himself directly as a character from his earlier Secret series. Along with making his protagonist look a lot ridiculous and, by the end, a little bit heroic, the author strews the tale with fart jokes and gross goo, oblique references to Harry Potter (“expel-your-anus!”), and other crowd-pleasing elements.

For readers who like (or at least don’t mind) continual authorial asides, a sturdy middle volume. (“backmatter”; map and illustrations, not seen) (Fantasy. 12-14)

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-316-32042-9

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2015

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