THE SPELL OF THE SORCERER'S SKULL by Edward Gorey

THE SPELL OF THE SORCERER'S SKULL

illustrated by , by

KIRKUS REVIEW

The third, least compelling adventure for Johnny Dixon--the 1950s boy-hero of The Curse of the Blue Figurine and The Mummy, the Will, and the Crypt. This time Johnny and Professor Childermass take a vacation trip up to a countryinn in New Hampshire, where the Prof immediately spots an unusual shelf clock that was stolen from his ancestral home some years ago: the bottom half of the clock contains a dollhouse room, a replica of the Victorian parlor wherein Prof. Childermass' great-uncle died in a bizarre fashion. Furthermore, during the night, Johnny sees the dollhouse room come to life (!); a tiny skull, from a shelf within the mini-room, falls out of the dollhouse; and Johnny, under some odd compulsion, secretly pockets this creepy talisman. Unsurprisingly, then, strange things start happening once Johnny and the Prof return to Duston Heights, Mass. A jack-o'-lantern mirage keeps appearing at the windows of the Professor's house. Then the Prof vanishes--appearing to Johnny only in a mirror-vision (mouthing "Help me"), leaving behind a few tiny clues. So, with pal Fergie and Catholic priest Father Higgins, Johnny starts on a sleuthing trail after the Professor; the clues eventually lead to a clock museum, a cemetery chapel, and a demon-possessed Professor--all on an island off the Maine coast. And the drawn-out, rather murky finale involves a book of black magic and a vengeful spirit (out to destroy the Professor because of a long-ago crime), with the devil-fighting powers of the True Cross and the Latin church Mass finally saving the day. Throughout, in fact, this thick occult stew is dubiously flavored with Catholic rites and totems--including a prayer to St. Anthony that produces a miraculous clue. ("It was possible that St. Anthony or some higher power had spoken.") More important, while Bellairs turns up the supernatural heat here, he leaves the characters almost entirely undeveloped: Johnny's home-life problems (father in Korea, mother dead, grandmother ill) barely get a mention this time, and there's little pizzazz in the supporting cast. A disappointing follow-up, then, but brightly inventive enough (especially in the creepy dollhouse notion) to provide a new chill or twist every few pages.
Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1984
ISBN: 0142402656
Page count: 180pp
Publisher: Dial
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 1984




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