Monday, April 20, 2009

The Death Collector

"Four days after his own funeral, Albert Wilkes came home for tea."

Take that show-stopper of a first line, and add to it foggy Victorian London, a mysterious department within the British Museum called The Department of Unclassified Artifacts, and a murder. Then throw a few teenagers into the mix: Eddie, a street urchin, who happens to pick a pocket at exactly the wrong - or right? - time; George, a clockmaker, who is on the brink of becoming an employee in the aforementioned mysterious department; and Liz, the insightful and brave daughter of an elderly clergyman.

Together, these three become involved in an intriguing mystery that involves zombies, seances, resurrected dinosaurs, ingenious clockwork mechanisms and a set of old journals that, it appears, are literally to die for. Despite the set of fairly stock characters and two-dimensional, thoroughly evil villains, the story takes off with its fast pace and gripping storyline, and there are enough plot twists and surprises to thrill any reader, particularly those in the targeted teenage audience.

I was delighted when the events of the book touched on the dinosaurs created by Waterhouse Hawkins, particularly the iguanodon statue in which he hosted the dinner, as so beautifully presented and illustrated in Barbara Kerley's The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins. It was fun to revisit the events from that book through the eyes of the characters in this one. Steven Pacey brings the story to life with his expressive narration, making it difficult to hit the "stop" button. A sequel to this one, The Parliament of Blood, has recently been released, and I'll be looking forward to seeing what bizarre trouble this sympathetic trio of friends will get into next.

The Death Collector by Justin Richards; narrated by Steven Pacey (Listening Library/Random House Audio, 2006)

Also reviewed at:
Bookshelves of Doom: "The Death Collector is a rip-snorter of an adventure novel. "

11 comments:

  1. How fantasy is this? Sounds like I would enjoy but I don't want like dragons and crap. You know me : )

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  2. Ooh, I've read and enjoyed several of his Doctor Who novels. I love Victorian London so this one is going on the wish list.

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  3. I too, like old England settings..this went on the wish list!

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  4. As you say, what a great first line! Looking forward to reading this one for sure.

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  5. Hahaha, you had me at "foggy Victorian London" - but then you went and said "street urchin" and "ingenious clock mechanisms". I am in the mood for a good adventurey romp.

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  6. VA Gal - There are no dragons, I promise! It dips into the realm of the fantastic (and requires a healthy dose of suspended disbelief), but is not at all a typical fantasy genre novel. Very action packed and cinematic, eerie atmosphere, etc.

    Ruth - I have not read his Doctor Who novels, but he sure has written a lot of them! I'll be interested to hear how you think this one compares.

    Deslily - Hope you enjoy it!

    Kiirstin - That first line got me, too!

    Jenny - This one should certainly fit the bill for a good, adventurey romp. Happy romping! :-)

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  7. stop. you had me at resurrected dinosaurs!

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  8. Where ever do you find these interesting books. Another to add to my list.

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  9. Molly - I guess I could have save myself some trouble and stopped writing the rest of the review. :-)

    Heather - I found this one through Ms. Yingling's review of the sequel, Parliament of Blood, which involves mummies and sounds like lots of fun!

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  10. You've conviced me! Zombies aren't my thing but everything else sounds like a good story!

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  11. Ladytink - Well, the zombies are fairly minor, and they're not conventional zombies at all - not hungry for brains or anything. More like mad-science induced zombies. Hope you like it!

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