Kirkus Reviews QR Code
SALEM BROWNSTONE by John Harris Dunning


All Along the Watchtowers

by John Harris Dunning & illustrated by Nikhil Singh

Age Range: 14 & up

Pub Date: July 13th, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-7636-4735-3
Publisher: Candlewick

Part mystery, part horror, this sly, psuedo-Victorian graphic novel is heavy on style but light on plot. Mundane Laundromat owner Salem Brownstone receives a telegram announcing the death of his estranged father, Jedediah, and a taxi brings him to his father’s home, an eerie, Gothic mansion with a circus encampment nearby. Upstairs, Salem encounters circus performer Cassandra Contortionist, who implores him to protect Jed’s “scrying ball,” an artifact preventing evil spirits of the Midnight City from entering our world. The rest of the book is a tour through Singh’s realization of the lush and grotesque scenery of the mansion, the circus and the Midnight City itself, as the opposing forces battle for the scrying ball. Occasional visual jokes, like Cassandra’s series of plot-related T-shirts and a label on the mansion’s doorbell reading “Antiquated Doorbell Mechanism,” bring an undercurrent of irony to the story’s moody atmosphere. Readers who, like Salem, “love the rum and unusual, the uncanny, the macabre” will find much to appreciate in the artwork; those looking for a plot of similar depth will be disappointed. (Graphic novel. 14 & up)