A parentless, put-upon kitchen boy is accused of murdering a magical hotel guest.
Seth Seppi cooks brilliantly, but he’ll never be a chef. Instead he’s the overworked help at the Last Chance Hotel, abused by his “nasty bosses.” Sometimes he sadly recalls the hotel’s popularity in the dimly remembered days before his father’s mysterious disappearance. Mostly, however, he washes dishes, even on nights like this, when some very special guests are due at the hotel. Tiffany, the daughter of Seth’s employers (and Seth’s chief tormenter) blackmails Seth into making a splendid dessert for the guest of honor, Dr. Thallomius, for which she’ll claim credit. When Dr. Thallomius drops dead from poison, Tiffany promptly snitches: Seth made the dessert, so he must be the murderer! Seth’s quest to clear his name is complicated by his realization that Dr. Thallomius and all the other guests at this bizarre party hail from a magical world. One of these odd people—Professor Papperspook in her multicolored, tentlike dress; tiny, scarred, dark-skinned Master Darinder Dunster-Dunstable; glamorous Angelique Squerr with her magical cane; or one of the others—murdered the kindly doctor and pinned the blame on Seth. Thornton’s prose can get clunky and characterization resorts to types, but the plot itself is a nifty, magical spin on the classic locked-room mystery. The book subscribes to the white default for characters not otherwise described.
A charming, old-fashioned–feeling romp. (Fantasy. 9-11)