Book Review: The Curious Vanishing of Beatrice Willoughby by G. Z. Schmidt
The Amadeuses were always considered somewhat strange. Even before the incident.
When six-year-old Beatrice Willoughby vanished at the Amadeuses’ annual All Hallows Eve party, people in the tiny mountain town of Nevermore were quick to whisper: They were always odd. Their house is full of dark magic. And when Mort Amadeus was pegged for the crime, the Amadeuses, once the center of society, retreated. They closed their doors, disappeared from life. People almost forgot. Until thirteen years later, when six envelopes land at the doorstep of six households in town: We cordially invite you to a celebration on the 31st of October this Saturday evening at the Amadeus household.
So begins the mystery of who was really responsible for the missing girl thirteen years ago. Was it Duchess von Pelt, whose face no one has ever seen? Mrs. Raven, the keeper of the local inn? Wormwood, the Amadeuses’ mysterious caretaker? Dr. Foozle, the town pharmacist? Count Baines, who seems to know when unlucky things are about to happen? Judge Ophelius, who presided over Beatrice’s case originally? Mr. and Mrs. H, a couple who no one can ever quite remember? Or somehow, might precocious, eleven-year-old Dewey and his storytelling dad, Chaucer, be somehow mixed up in all this?
The guests must work together to identify the guilty party among them over the course of the evening—but beware the ticking clock, because at midnight, everything is going to change! Told from different perspectives, this is a sly, darkly funny mystery. Filled with strange characters and set in a mansion deep, deep in the woods. G. Z. Schmidt has crafted an unforgettable puzzle, perfect for reading on a dark autumn night.
Fairy tales meets The Canterbury Tales meets Clue. You’re in, right? Because I was in from the very first line. Usually I read something for TLT during the day, then when I go to bed to read at night, I read another book, a book I think of as a “fun” book only because it’s usually an adult book so it’s not for “work” thus I don’t have to think about what I want to say. But with this book? I kept right on reading when I went to bed and read to the end. I needed to know who was involved in Beatrice’s disappearance and what was going on with all the other extremely suspicious characters.
This is the kind of review where I mostly just tell you that this book was amazing and you should go read it. It’s full of red herrings, humor (necrowmancer! ha!), phenomenal (and suspicious!) characters, and a truly mysterious mystery. Schmidt does something really great here. Our title character is absent for the story, a different kid actually is at the center of the action, and he’s surrounded by adults—not a single other child appears. Usually when I read something for children that is largely populated by adults, it doesn’t work for me. I think it’s hard to pull off keeping the focus on it being a story about a kid, starring a kid, without it starting to feel like, “Too much of the adults! Boring!” But here? Almost all adults, totally fine. The missing Beatrice is the focus. The present Dewey is the focus. The adults have most of the action and most of the dialogue, and yet, it works. It works GREAT!
I’ve said this before, but sometimes I finish a book and want to say to it, “Thank you for having me. I had a very nice time.” And this is another case of that. I had a great time reading this book. It’s fun, clever, surprising, and completely satisfying. This joins the list for my top reads of 2023. Don’t miss it!
Review copy (ARC) courtesy of the publisher
Publisher: Holiday House
Publication date: 09/05/2023
Age Range: 8 – 12 Years
Filed under: Book Reviews
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
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