F E Higgins has been fascinated by the macabre ever since seeing a ghostly apparition as a child. Nowadays F E travels the lands that these books describe, collecting strange artefacts and the even stranger secrets and stories behind them. The Black Book of Secrets, The Bone Magician and The Eyeball Collector document the results of these eerie explorations and have sold all over the world. When not in pursuit of a story, F E may be found in a haunted house in Kent. She sits with quill in hand, a false leg beside her and from the mantelpiece an eyeball watches the words she forms on the page.
Gr 5-8-A secret pawnbroker, Joe Zabbidou pays for secrets, and everyone has one. Ludlow Fitch, escaping his parents' efforts to sell the teeth from his mouth, meets Joe in the desolate mountain village of Pagus Parvus. It is an ideal place for Joe as miserly Jeremiah Ratchet uses people's transgressions to blackmail and cheat them. Joe offers young Ludlow a job transcribing confessions into Joe's Black Book. Desperate individuals declare they are grave robbers, thieves, even murderers, and are freed by their confessions. As folk unburden their secrets, mass hatred for Ratchet begins to foment, and later Joe himself becomes a target. A tightly woven novel, Black Book grabs readers from the first image of Ludlow protecting his vulnerable teeth. The author uses the device of claiming to have found extracts of Joe's book and Ludlow's memoirs, bridging the gaps with her imagination. The shifting perspective slows the action considerably. That said, Higgins employs visceral imagery (rat pies, wives buried alive) as well as Rembrandt-like contrasts of light and dark to illuminate the loneliness of wealth and despair. Add to this a dollop of suspense and the intriguing idea that fear of our own actions is our greatest enemy, and the result is an unusual, compelling read. Readers who like Sharon Shinn or Megan Whalen Turner will love this unique novel.-Caitlin Augusta, The Darien Library, CT Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
This polished debut from a British writer tantalizingly blends secrets and thick, evocative atmosphere. In an indeterminate, grim past (think Dickensian squalor by way of a Broadway stage set), the boy Ludlow Fitch flees the City, "a stinking place undeserving of a name," and his parents, who have betrayed him for the last time. Chance (or is it destiny?) leads him to remote Pagus Parvus and to another newcomer, Joe Zabbidou, who sets himself up as a pawnbroker. But Zabbidou has a sideline: he pays good money for secrets. One by one the villagers come to him at midnight to unburden themselves-and they spill some doozies. The undertaker has dug up corpses, to be sold to a medical school; the butcher served his father a pie of rat, mouse, beetles and worms. As Ludlow inscribes the secrets in Zabbidou's Black Book, he fights down his suspicions of Zabbidou even as he joins the villagers in their hatred of Jeremiah Ratchet, the wealthy villain to blame for their misery and evil deeds. Higgins, framing her book as texts discovered in a hollowed wooden leg, expertly sustains the audience's curiosity, revealing just enough information to keep readers riveted. And for all the grisly details, the novel gets at important themes about self-determination and trust. Original and engrossing. Ages 9-12. (Oct.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.