Narrated in a style reminiscent of Lemony Snicket, Horton Halfpott or the Fiendish Mystery of Smugwick Manor or the Loosening of M’Lady Luggertuck’s Corset is an engaging read for the upper elementary and middle school crowd. Fans of Terry Pratchett’s books may also enjoy Horton Halfpott.
Smugwick Manor, the expansive dwelling of the Luggertuck family, is home to a large cast of characters. M’Lady Luggertuck has a tyrannical hold on the household, causing the servants much pain and driving elderly Lord Emberly, her father-in-law, to move out of the house. One morning, she lets this hold slip the tiniest of notches, and all in the manor take note. The servants dare to relax a smidge. M’Lady’s oily teenage son Luther is angered and frightened by the change in the status quo. By eavesdropping on his mother, he learns that his cousin Montgomery is coming for a visit and that his mother will be hosting a ball.
Getting ready for a ball means more work for the manor servants. Miss Neversly rules the kitchen, creating far from tasty delights and beating any one who does not mean her standards with a spoon. Her favorite target is often Horton Halfpott, who sometimes washes over 600 spoons a day for the household. When the others enjoy a weekly opportunity for actual food rather than gruel when Miss Neversly is out on her weekly shopping trip, Horton doesn’t risk a bite. He dares not break a rule because he cannot risk losing his job. Of his family, Horton is the only one with a paying job and his father suffers from a grave illness. Horton, along with many other younger servants is set out to help deliver invitations to the ball.
When an ugly large diamond known as The Lump is stolen at Smugwick Manor, a famous detective comes to investigate. He is shadowed by three annoying journalists. The detective employs the Snooping Stable Boys to assist him in his investigations. Other items go missing in the manor, making M’Lady Luggertuck suspicious of the detectives skills. Throw in wild accusations, a smart heiress that both Luther and his cousin want to claim, a group of Shipless pirates and mayhem is well underway in this story. Author Tom Angleberger’s quirky character sketches throughout the book help reinforce the mood of this book where anything can happen. I also enjoyed the fake story titles thrown into the book in explanation of M’Lady’s behaviors.
Did I mention that the cover of the book glows in the dark?
From the opening of the book:
There are so many exciting things in this book–a Stolen Diamond, snooping stable boys, a famous detective, the disappearance of a Valuable Wig, love, pickle eclairs, unbridled Evil, and the Black Deeds of the Shipless Pirates–that it really does seem a shame to begin with ladies’ underwear.