Monday, October 27, 2008

Something Wicked: A Horatio Wilkes Mystery

Gratz, Alan. 2008. Something Wicked: A Horatio Wilkes Mystery.

Horatio Wilkes is back in his second adventure, Something Wicked. We first met our mystery-solving hero (who is wonderfully snarky) in Something Rotten. A modern adaptation of Shakespeare's Hamlet set in Denmark, Tennessee. In this second adventure, we have a modern-day spin on Shakespeare's Macbeth set on Mount Birnam during the Scottish Highland Fair. (And although this is his second book, it is not necessary to have read Something Rotten in order to enjoy Something Wicked.)

So who are the stars of Something Wicked? Well, there's Mac (Joe Mackenzie), Beth (Mac's girl friend with attitude), Banks (Wallace Banks, cousin and friend to Mac), Duncan (Mac's grandfather, owner of the mountain and founder of the fair), Mal (Duncan's son and Mac's uncle), Mona (Desdemona, Horatio's older sister), and Megan Sternwood (Horatio's love interest from the Macduff clan). Of course, there are many others as well including a fortune-telling road-side psychic named Madame Hecate.

Here's how the novel begins:

History is full of guys who did stupid things for women. Paris started the Trojan War over Helen. Mark Antony abandoned Rome for Cleopatra. John Lennon gave up the Beatles for Yoko Ono. You can say I'm a dreamer, but they're not the only ones. Like my friend, Joe Mackenzie: He was about to jump off a five-story building just to impress a girl.
"Come on, you wuss!" Mac's girlfriend Beth yelled. "If you don't jump off that tower, you're not getting any more of this!" She lifted her sweater up over her head, showing her bra and her extraordinary breasts to Mac, me, Banks, and the five or six other people milling around Kangaroo Kevin's Bungee Jump-O-Rama in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. They actually inspired a small round of applause. I won't say what they did to me, but Beth's fun cushions certainly inspired Mac. With a Scottish war cry he charged the end of the platform and jumped headfirst, screaming all the way down. His kilt opened like a daisy as he fell, and everyone saw his stamen. (1)
This group of friends is on their way to the Highland Fair. (Horatio is the only one NOT wearing a kilt.) But before they arrive, they stop and several have their fortunes read by a woman who calls herself Madame Hecate. An activity that proves rather fateful and which sets the tone for the book. Mac is told that he will compete in the decathlon, he will win, and he will become king of the mountain. Banks is told that he is "lesser than your friend, but greater" and "not so happy, yet much happier" and that he will one day own the mountain. These "prophecies" set off a chain of events...

Something Wicked is a mystery. The mystery in this case? Who murdered Duncan Macrae? The man, the founder of the Fair and highly respected and beloved by all the clans, is found murdered in his tent on opening night. Horatio is the one who discovers the body. Who sees the name 'Malcolm' written in blood. Who reports the crime to the police. Who becomes friends with Sheriff Wood. It is Horatio who starts to piece together just who had the motive, means, and opportunity. He may not like being in the center of this unfolding mystery. (Especially as he discovers he has his own role to play in solving the case.) But Horatio plays a crucial role in bringing justice about.

I loved so many things about this one. It's a smart novel. Great writing. Good humor. Interesting twists.

From the author's site:

Something wicked this way comes,
and only Horatio Wilkes can stop it.

A Scottish Highland Fair turns foul when Horatio discovers the games' founder, Duncan MacRae, dead in his tent. All signs point to Duncan's son as the murderer, but Horatio's not so sure--especially when his friend Mac and Mac's girlfriend Beth start acting like they own the place. And that's just one of many mysteries: Like why are Mac's and Beth's fathers acting so suspiciously? What's the deal with the goth-punk bagpiper corps threatening Horatio's friend Banks? Who is the hot girl spying on everyone? And why, exactly, are there men in kilts tossing telephone poles around?

Horatio will need all his snark and smarts--and maybe a little amazing grace--to thwart the fate a road-side psychic laid out for him and his friends. Not that Horatio believes in that kind of thing anyway . . .

Kilts, Celts, and killers: the sequel to Something Rotten is "Macbeth" as you've never seen it before!

For a limited time, you can read Something Rotten for free.

Other reviews: Genre Go Round, Readers' Rants.

To learn more about Alan Gratz, Something Wicked, and/or Shakespeare...visit these other stops on the tour:

the 160acrewoods, A Christian Worldview of Fiction, All About Children’s Books, Becky’s Book Reviews, By The Book Reviews Book Review Maniac, Cafe of Dreams, Dolce Bellezza, Hyperbole,, Looking Glass Reviews, Maggie Reads, Never Jam Today, Reading is My Superpower

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


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