I saw Derek Landy's Skulduggery Pleasant in the bookshops and was intrigued by the jaunty skeleton on the cover. Then Kelly H of Big A, little a reviewed it very favourably and I knew I had to get a copy from the library.
For 12 year old Stephanie Edgley everything starts when her uncle Gordon Edgley dies. Gordon wasn't much of a family man and Stephanie was the only one who was close to him. Although saying that is a bit of a stretch; it would probably be more accurate to say that he tolerated her presence better, and more frequently, than he did the presence of the rest of his family. But that doesn't completely explain why he leaves his house, his fortune and his book royalties to Stephanie. Actually, there's a lot of unexplained things about Gordon, even more so now that he's gone. Like the strange man who turns up at the funeral wrapped tightly in a scarf, sunglasses, and an overcoat, so that you can't glimpse even an inch of his skin. That was the first time that Stephanie encountered Skulduggery Pleasant.
The next time they meet is at the reading of Gordon's will. The one where he left most of his things to his twelve-year-old niece, much to the dismay of Stephanie's aunt and other uncle, who get a boat (Uncle Fergus gets seasick), a car (they already have a car), and a brooch (which doesn't even have any jewels on it). Stephanie's parents, incidentally, get a villa in France. Skulduggery Pleasant however, receives the strangest bequest of all, some very cryptic advice. Ye he seems completely content.
This was not to be the last encounter between Stephanie and Skulduggery, however. After spending most of a day exploring part of Stephanie's new house, she and her mother get in the car to go home only to find that the car won't start. A mechanic comes to fix it and has to tow it back to the garage. Stephanie convinces her mother that she can stay at the house for an hour or so whilst the car is being fixed. However, the storm which started whilst they were waiting for the mechanic to arrive grows worse and the road to the house is flooded. Stephanie is stuck at her new house for the night. Stephanie couldn't be happier, though - she likes the idea of freedom and solitude - unfortunately it only lasts a few minutes before someone is trying to break into the house, and somehow Stephanie doesn't believe him when he says he won't hurt her if she just lets him in to get what he wants. Fortunately, Skulduggery Pleasant arrives to rescue Stephanie - and what a strange rescuer he turns out to be. In his struggle with the intruder, his hat and scarf fall off to reveal he's actually a skeleton! This promps dozens of questions, such as who and what is Skulduggery ? How did he get to know her uncle ? Why was he at the house ? How is it that he can throw fire and can he teach her to do it ? And how does he stay upright when there's no skin and muscle to hold him together ?
Skulduggery Pleasant is an exciting adventure with a fun plot, well drawn characters and a great sense of humour. I foresee this book being immensely popular with children and adults alike (like Harry Potter, but with more humour and far less angst...) I hope it's the start of a series. If you can get hold of it, do read it - it's such fun !
There's also a Skulduggery Pleasant Audiobook available - and of course, it's available from Amazon.com. There's a Skulduggery Pleasant website which is quite good fun, and you might want to check out the Book Trailer - that's the first Book Trailer I've actually made a point of watching, and it was quite amusing.