“Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Nobody Move, This Is A Review: SKULDUGGERY PLEASANT by Derek Landy

Devastated by the death of her eccentric but beloved uncle Gordon, 12-year-old Stephanie is bewildered to discover that she’s been bequeathed his rambling old mansion in his will. But she’s far more astonished when she discovers that one of Gordon’s old friends, Skulduggery Pleasant, is a private detective who happens to be dead. A walking, talking, wise-cracking skeleton, Skulduggery battles the forces of evil on behalf of the mysterious but benevolent Elders, and even manages to win once in a while. But with Serpine Mevolent plotting to draw a veil of darkness over the entire universe, Skulduggery is going to need a little help on his latest case – and Stephanie, although little in stature, is just busting out all over with attitude. Comparisons are odious, but fans of Eoin Colfer’s off-beat Artemis Fowl capers are likely to find Derek Landy a kindred spirit. Skulduggery Pleasant is a hugely likeable character, one part Philip Marlowe to generous dash of skeletal Don Quixote, but while adult readers will enjoy the knowing references to classic hardboiled dialogue, younger readers will be more impressed by the savvy and self-contained Stephanie, who more than holds her own in adult company. For a debut novel (Landy was previously a screenwriter, with two comedy-horror flicks under his belt), SKULDUGGERY PLEASANT is remarkably assured, offering a seamless blend of mystery, humour and fantasy-inspired magic and mayhem. Dotted throughout with pithy, laconically understated lines (“The moon was out and the stars were twinkling and it really was a beautiful night for pain.”), this imaginative and effortlessly charming reworking of the private eye template really is a gift for kids of all ages. – Declan Burke

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