cover image The Lunatic's Curse

The Lunatic's Curse

F.E. Higgins. Feiwel and Friends, $16.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-312-56682-1

Higgins's fourth "polyquel," which can be read in tandem with her previous books (The Black Book of Secrets and its companions) or on its own, offers more of her trademark mix of nasty crimes (cannibalism takes center stage), children in peril, macabre humor, and serious danger. Rex Grammaticus suspects that his father's new wife, Acantha, is not what she seems. But he is horrified when she and her conspirators drive Rex's father mad and get him imprisoned in the town's island asylum. Rex knows that his stepmother's twisted plans will include getting rid of him and claiming the family fortune, but he doesn't realize the extent of her malevolence. Through alternating perspectives—including that of Hildred Buttonquail, who joins Rex in uncovering the subterranean secrets of the asylum—Higgins's horror-mystery is filled with Victorian streetscapes, contemptible characters with preposterous names (like Dr. Velhildegildus), and abundant suffering, David Copperfield–style. Through its grisly revelations, epistolary elements, and wrenching conclusion, readers may catch equal hints of Poe and Shelley's Frankenstein. Ages 10–14. (Aug.)