Harcourt Brace & Company, 1999. 9780152018993
Synopsis: Selwyn Roweson has just been accused of murdering his rival and fellow villager Farold and as punishment for his crime, has been trapped in the burial caves with Farold’s corpse. He is rescued by the witch Elswyth and makes a bargain with her to bring Farold back from the afterlife in order to help him prove his innocence. Unfortunately for Selwyn, Farold is just as annoying dead as he was alive, and it is going to take all of his restraint to keep from killing Farold for real.
Why I picked it up: I read and enjoyed Heir Apparent and wanted to read more of Vande Velde’s writing.
Why I finished it: The book jacket explains the book as a “mystery-horror-comedy” and the description pretty much fits perfectly. Vande Velde is a very prolific and decorated author, having won numerous Edgar Awards for her books. The writing is simple and engaging, and the characters are well-painted. The plot is well-paced and the mystery keeps the reader interested up until Selwyn is able to figure out the puzzle that surrounds Farold’s death. Vande Velde’s sense of humor is a little strange, but not off-putting or offensive, and aptly mixes slapstick with puns throughout the book. The story starts out running and doesn’t stop, but while I found the end satisfying, it was much slower and left me with the feeling that things might have been tied up a little too neatly.
Other related materials: Smart Dog by Vivian Vande Velde; Ghost of a Hanged Man by Vivian Vande Velde; A Coming Evil by Vivian Vande Velde; Curses, Inc. and Other Stories by Vivian Vande Velde; Tales from the Brothers Grimm and the Sisters Weird by Vivian Vande Velde; Companions of the Night by Vivian Vande Velde; Dragon’s Bait by Vivian Vande Velde; User Unfriendly by Vivian Vande Velde; A Well-Timed Enchantment by Vivian Vande Velde; A Hidden Magic by Vivian Vande Velde; Heir Apparent by Vivian Vande Velde; Death Cloud by Andre Lane; Savvy by Ingrid Law; A Matter of Magic by Patricia Wrede; Spindle’s End by Robin McKinley