Sunday, May 12, 2013

Fantastical Gothic Comedy Mystery with Corpses, a Castle, a Creature and a Raven your thing? Read the Raven Mysteries!

Marcus Sedgwick

Marcus Sedgwick aims for a younger audience with this, the first of five Raven Mysteries books.  Instead he gets me.

The ancient Guardian of Otherhand Castle has noticed a threat to the family and servants of the castle - a menacing and noxious tail, that may be connected to a mouth connected to the disappearance of a kitchen maid.  Soon he has observed another danger: the castle, which appears to have something of a mind of its own, is flooding.  Being a responsible Guardian, he attempts to warn the Otherhands, but this is more difficult than it would initially seem, since the Otherhands are variously, mad, stupid, obsessed with trivialities, conducting gruesome meteorological experiments or accompanied by a dangerous sticky monkey.  Even explaining the situation to the one sensible member of the Otherhand clan is not straightforward, because the ancient Guardian is a Raven.  Called Edgar.

This immensely entertaining, funny book combines ingredients from every comic-Gothic source that comes to mind, including The Adams Family, Beetlejuice and Araminta Spook with items from numerous more serious Gothic sources such as Gormenghast and one E.A. Poe, mixed together with Sedgwick's own strong Gothic sensibility and baked in a slightly rusty cake tin, rising to form a light and fluffy cake that it is a delight to consume.

It is worth noting that the book deploys illustration more effectively than any other novel with a similar target audience that I can remember.  (Admittedly I can remember few.)

I look forward impatiently to the next Mystery as told from the viewpoint of Otherhand's oldest denizen, Edgar the Raven.

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