By Henry Chancellor
Published by Oxford
ISBN 978 0 19 272084 9
Museums are the perfect places to hide secrets, as the hit Night at the Museum movies showed thousands of movie-goers. The Scatterhorn Museum in The Museum's Secret is a much more down-market and scruffy place than the flash city museums featured in the Hollywood blockbusters.
The Scatterhorn has seen better days. Very few visitors pass through its doors, and the exhibits are moth-eaten and covered in dust. It's cold and boring, full of decrepit stuffed animals and uninteresting junk. The Scatterhorn's days are numbered. But this forgotten, forlorn place holds a dramatic secret, as one young boy who is unwillingly propelled through its doors is soon to discover.
With his parents occupied on adventures of their own, 11-year-old Tom Scatterhorn is packed off to stay with his boring aunt and uncle who run the Scatterhorn Museum in the remote town of Dragonport. Tom can't relate to his ancient aunt and uncle who are as dismal as the museum they run, and the exhibits that make up the museum are just a joke.
The first few chapters of The Museum's Secret neatly set up the mystery that is to unfold. And, of course, the title gives a massive hint as to what is going to happen.
One night Tom discovers that the stuffed animals on display, created by a mysterious taxidermist more than 100 years ago, come to life.
It doesn't take much to work out what the museum's secret is going to be before it is actually revealed, so Henry Chancellor needs a few more tricks up his sleeve to keep readers hooked.
Tom finds a portal in the museum that enables him to travel back to the time when the museum was first opened. The creator of the Scatterhorn Collection is not only a brilliant taxidermist but he has also discovered an elixir of life that a rival wants to get his hands on.
Tom is not the only person who has found his way back in time. There are others from the present who want to own the rumoured elixir. Tom finds himself wound up in an adventure that involves time travel, mysterious insects, a magic potion, a sinister girl, merciless villains and magical chocolate cake.
The Museum's Secret does not pretend to be anything it isn't. It's an unreal comic-book adventure through a preposterous plot with more than the usual twists, thrilling set-pieces and cliff-hanger situations. Don't ask too many questions. Buy a ticket to the Scatterhorn Museum, keep your tongue in your cheek and enjoy the ride.
John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com