Welcome to today’s Maniacal Book Club Review and giveaway! Today’s book is one that I have wanted to get my grubby claws on ever since I first saw it and I was lucky enough to be sent a review copy by Allen & Unwin (thanks Onions!)…but by that time I had already bought myself a copy, on account of not wanting to have to wait around like a chump to read it. So that extra copy means….GIVEAWAY! More about that in a minute. I haven’t even told you what book you could be winning.
It is Death or Ice Cream? by Gareth P Jones, who brought you such middle grade gems as Constable and Toop and the Ninja Meerkats series. Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:
Larkin Mills: The Birthplace of Death!
Larkin Mills is no ordinary town. It’s a place of contradictions and enigma, of secrets and mysteries. A place with an exquisite ice cream parlour, and an awful lot of death.
An extraordinary mystery in Larkin Mills is beginning to take shape. First we meet the apparently healthy Albert Dance, although he’s always been called a sickly child, and he’s been booked into Larkin Mills’ Hospital for Specially Ill Children. Then there’s his neighbour Ivor, who observes strange goings-on, and begins his own investigations into why his uncle disappeared all those years ago. Next we meet Young Olive, who is given a battered accordion by her father, and unwittingly strikes a dreadful deal with an instrument repair man.
Make sure you keep an eye on Mr Morricone, the town ice-cream seller, who has queues snaking around the block for his legendary ice cream flavours Summer Fruits Suicide and The Christmas Massacre. And Mr Milkwell, the undertaker, who has some very dodgy secrets locked up in his hearse. Because if you can piece together what all these strange folks have to do with one another . . . well, you’ll have begun to unlock the dark secrets that keep the little world of Larkin Mills spinning . . .
And here’s what the club thinks of it:
Inspired by the title of this book, I too am called to question. What is life? What is death? Is death the final ending for we mortals or does such a thing exist that can restore the dead to life? Is it likely that such an object could be related to poultry? The ending of this book raised more questions for me to ponder. Not all the questions raised in the story were answered by the end. This book should only be given to those who are willing to shut off the television and open their eyes. Unless, of course, the competitive basket weaving championships are being televised.
There are no dragons in this book. But there is a super-cool egg and a creepy guy with hooves and a wax museum and a guy stuck in a statue. I really liked Park. She’s a cool, funny, brave girl who has to figure out some of the mystery. It would have been better if the egg was a dragon’s egg. Kids who aren’t afraid of some really weird stuff should read this book, especially if they want something different with lots of murder and sneakiness and strange ice cream flavours.
There once was a being called Larkin
Your doorstep just pray he won’t darken,
He joined up with Mills
In a battle of wills,
And a townful of oddness they’ve sparkened.
What a strange and refreshing ride this book took us on! I haven’t been this impressed with a book’s genre-bending originality since Ishbelle Bee’s John Loveheart Esq series for grown-up readers. While Death or Ice Cream? doesn’t reach that level of carnage and mind-twistery, this is definitely not a book for young readers who are faint of heart, or who are used to middle-grade books that follow a traditional narrative format.
The book begins with a series of seemingly unconnected chapters featuring various residents of Larkin Mills, including (my personal favourite) Olive and her unwanted accordion and Ivor and his missing artist uncle. At first reading, it appears that these chapters could possibly stand alone as representations of the oddness of Larkin Mills, but the further one delves into the novel, the easier it is to see the links between the earlier chapters and the book’s climax, which ends up reading more like a traditional story format.
In order to appreciate this book, the reader needs to have acquired a taste for dry, dark humour and not be too bothered by unpredictable turns of events. For this reason, this book will not appeal to every reader in the target age-group, but if you are looking for something different for a sophisticated upper-middle grade- or early-YA-aged fleshing of your acquaintance, you should definitely leave this lying around in their eyeline. Having said that, it’s a great choice for adult readers looking for something layered, irreverent, quirky and fun.
The Book Club gives this book:
Eight thumbs up!
I’m also submitting this book for the Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge hosted by Escape with Dollycas:
You can check on my progress in that challenge here.
Until next time,