By Rebecca Promitzer
Published by Chicken House
Eleven-year-old Bea lives in the nothing-ever-happens town of Elbow, where it rains so much that the residents are in danger of developing webbed feet. Elbow is a boring place to grow up, and during the summer holidays, when you might expect a bit of sunshine, the rain only gets worse. Residents with money head off to the beaches of Florida in summer to escape rain-sodden Elbow, but when they get back, the rain is still where they left it. And so the setting of Rebecca Promitzer's The Pickle King is set up.
Bea's father, a photo journalist, died a while ago and Bea misses him terribly. She also misses her mum, who lost her grip on reality when Dad died and had to go live in a special hospital.
Bea now lives with Bertha, one of her mum's friends. She dreams constantly of getting out of Elbow during those never-ending wet weeks of summer.
But that is never likely to happen, so all Bea can do is dream.
Elbow's only claim to fame is a successful pickle factory started up a long time ago by Herman Henderson. Bea adores Herman's Devil Tongue Chili, and piles it liberally onto everything from toast to sweet pancakes. You have to get happiness where you can in Elbow, and dollops of Devil Tongue Chili are definitely one of life's pleasures for Bea as she wonders what to do with herself during yet another rain-lashed boring summer vacation.
She doesn't have to wonder for long. Along with her intrepid friend Sam, Bea discovers a dead body in the basement of a creepy old house, and suddenly all manner of unpleasant goings-on are unleashed. With a gang of oddball friends, Bea finds herself in the middle of a crazy adventure with an extremely nasty mystery to solve. Perhaps this summer vacation won't be dull and boring after all ...
The Pickle King is sometimes scary, sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, sometimes disgusting and completely original. This is one novel in which you certainly don't know what's coming next. During the course of their unexpected adventure, Bea's little gang comes face to face with a helpful ghost, a stolen bag of human intestines, a killer doctor, a garbage dump hiding disgusting secrets and a Frankenstein-like palace storing human body parts. Promitzer packs so much originality and plot surprises into her debut novel that the book almost bursts at the seams.
But it isn't only the fiendish plot and outstanding set pieces of action that keep The Pickle King on the right track. Promitzer is an expert character drawer and the five youngsters involved in the action are very entertaining and alive with personality. These kids are real - not just the boring stereotypes many authors come up with.
The Pickle King is a zany and almost over-the-top adventure with dashes of hot relish and crazy action - a creepy hit, but not for the faint-hearted.
John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com