cover image A Pack of Lies

A Pack of Lies

Geraldine McCaughrean. Oxford University Press, USA, $15 (176pp) ISBN 978-0-19-271612-5

Mrs. Povey's antique business is a disaster--she is so honest about flaws in objects that she talks customers out of buying them, and undercharges people when she finally makes a sale. Then along comes MCC Berkshire, a mysterious helper who insists on working for nothing. Both Mrs. Povey and her daughter, Ailsa, are quickly out-dueled by the man's skilled use of language and his irrefutable logic. He tells elaborate stories about objects in the shop, verbally seducing each potential buyer into making a purchase. Each chapter amounts to a short story about a particular object, but MCC and McCaughrean aren't content to create mere diversions. Each story is written in a different literary style (gothic, epic, folkloric), all of them enthralling. The author leaps from genre to genre, in the writing equivalent of sleight of hand. Within each tale are surprising twists and turns that overlap and extend the stories-within-stories; McCaughrean pulls off each meta-fictional complexity with finesse and humor. Ages 10-13. (May)