Elmore Hammes,
The Holmes & Watson Mysterious Events & Objects Consortium:
The Case of the Witch's Talisman

(Kanapolis Fog, 2007)

Kevin and Ginny are best friends in the small town of Kanapolis. They have founded a club, "The Holmes & Watson Mysterious Events & Objects Consortium," of which they are the sole members. Ginny emulates Sherlock Holmes, Kevin acts as Dr. Watson, and the two collect unusual objects, mostly odd-looking rocks and bits of scrap metal.

The first part of the story describes their friendship, their town and their relationships with each other and some of their peers. This part of the story is a bit slow, but it lays necessary groundwork for later, and for what I suspect will be a series of sequels.

What injects the excitement, action, intrigue and suspense into this story? Well, it starts when Kevin and Ginny find a dead squirrel, which disappears before they can bury it. The same happens with a dead rabbit, and the disappearances do not stop. They relate to an event that occurred centuries earlier, when a powerful, good sorcerer banished an evil witch, but not entirely successfully. Just as Sauron returned in The Lord of the Rings, Voldemort disappeared in Harry Potter and Lord Foul was not quite destroyed in The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, so in this book we discover that evil is not easy to destroy permanently. And, as in both Rings and Potter, the evil needs something to finish consolidating power. Well, from the other stories, we know what must happen: the evil power must be defeated and the evil object must be destroyed!

The kids are very credibly portrayed. I work with children all the time, and Elmore Hammes has given us a nice sample of realistic 12-year-old characters. There are friendships, crushes, alliances and mini-feuds. Another strength is the character of the witch. This is one gleefully nasty and cruel villainness. She is not on a par with Sauron, but I would like to see her go up against Voldemort. Once the witch enters the story, the book becomes entrancing and is hard to put down. The pace goes from "a little slow" to "run-away freight-train" in a heartbeat. While the book is aimed at ages 9 to 12, it grabbed my attention and did not let go.

I am not sure that this story might not be too scary for some 9-year-olds. Much will depend upon whether the child has a firm grasp upon the fiction-versus-reality distinction. If your child has nightmares from scary movies or found the Harry Potter books or movies too scary, this tale might also cause problems. However, if your young reader can enjoy a good haunted house, this book might be just the ticket.

review by
Chris McCallister

31 May 2008

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