October 17th, 2008

A Pocket Full of Murder

Something awesome this way comes

If you have a deep-seated yearning to read a YA novel version of Hamlet with Horatio as a cynical, scruffy teen detective with a buried idealistic streak, AND I THINK YOU DO*, you should know that Alan Gratz is offering his first book Something Rotten online for free until November 30th.

What I did not realize when I read (and got a kick out of) the book the other day, however, was that this offer is to celebrate the release of the second Horatio Wilkes mystery, which is an equally skewed version of Macbeth:

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 . . .

I am trying to decide if I would have enjoyed the first book more if I hadn't known the play so well. All I can conclude is that it would have been a different sort of enjoyment, more tied up in the actual whodunnit. But on the other hand, there were still a good few surprises, especially toward the end of the novel. I was impressed by the way the book referenced the original play faithfully on many points (including some giggle-worthy in-jokes and meta) without being enslaved to it. Also, Horatio, HELLO.

Anyway, if you're interested in the books, or just want some amusing Project Runway commentary (or at least it looks amusing, though I'm not a PR watcher so I couldn't tell you how insightful it actually is), check out Alan Gratz's blog.

* Or maybe that was just me. Whatever.