If it hadn't been for the fact that there was a shortcut through the cemetery...and if Johnny hadn't been dared to knock on the door of a mausoleum...and if he hadn't actually gone up and knocked on the door...and if the door hadn't opened...he might never have realized he could actually see - and talk to - the spirits of the dead.
But he did. And he can. And the dead are not happy that their cemetery - their home - is about to be destroyed. New buildings are going to be built there, and the bodies will be moved somewhere else. Where exactly, no one knows. The dead seem to think that Johnny can help them, somehow. But what's a boy to do? Who would listen to him? And what could he possibly have to say that would be worth listening to?
Johnny wishes he could help - really, he does. Especially as he grows to know the people who were buried there: Solomon Einstein (taxidermist, amateur physicist and distant relative of Albert Einstein), "escapist" and magician Antonio Vicente (very popular at children's parties), Ms. Sylvia Liberty (suffragette), and William Stickers (than man who would have invented Communism if Karl Marx hadn't), among others. Even though they aren't exactly famous, they are still part of the town's past, and tearing away the past so callously seems incredibly wrong to Johnny.
I was dismayed to learn, after I'd finished this book, that it's actually the second in a trilogy. There was no mention of that on the audiobook that I checked out from my library! I hate when that happens. Even so, I have to say that the book stands well on its own, since I never once felt I was missing out on any backstory. It was a thoroughly enjoyable book to listen to, and I will definitely read the other two in the trilogy. While not as unabashedly humorous as the Discworld novels, it is a sweet and funny story about the importance of the past and the willingness to take risks in order to change the future.
Books in the Johnny Maxwell Trilogy:
1. Only You Can Save Mankind
2. Johnny and the Dead
3. Johnny and the Bomb
Johnny and the Dead (#2 in the Johnny Maxwell trilogy) by Terry Pratchett; narrated by Richard Mitchley (Chivers North America, 1993)
Also reviewed at:
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