Horton Halfpott: or, the Fiendish Mystery of Smudgwick Manor, or, the Loosening of M’Lady Luggertuck’s Corset by Tom Angleberger
I’m a big fan of pretty much everything Abrams is publishing these days. I really loved Tom Angleberger’s The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, and I was excited about reading a new book from him. This one did not disappoint. While definitely different from Origami Yoda, it was a very entertaining read in its own right.
The titular hero, Horton Halfpott, is a kitchen boy trying to support his family by working in the manor home of the Luggertuck family. The Manor is a miserable place to work, until one day, when Lady Luggertuck’s corset is loosened, the strict rules of the manor seem to be loosened as well. In the midst of all the hubbub caused by the corset-loosening, a priceless family heirloom, the Luggertuck Lump, goes missing, and the family calls in famous detective Portnoy St. Pomfrey to solve the mystery. St. Pomfrey, who is not quite the expert in detection that he has made everyone believe he is, enlists the help of the manor’s stableboys to solve the crime. While others suspect Horton of taking the Lump, his friends the stableboys know he is innocent and set about to find the true thief.
The book has a large cast of characters, including the Luggertuck family, their many servants, and other guests to the manor, but each character is distinct and has a particular role to play in the story. The story is a mixture of mystery, historical fiction, and even a little romance, but above all, it is very funny. The narrator of the story speaks directly to the reader, somewhat in the manner of A Series of Unfortunate Events, and in this aspect reminded me a bit of the also very well-written The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood.
Overall, this was a really entertaining read, and should appeal to kids who like their humor a little on the dark side and tongue-in-cheek. They’ll be rooting for underdog Horton to overcome the obstacles in his way as he tries to clear his name and get ahead in life.