cover image The Murdstone Trilogy: A Novel

The Murdstone Trilogy: A Novel

Mal Peet. Candlewick, $18.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-7636-8184-5

Philip Murdstone has written five quiet books in the “Sensitive Dippy Boy genre,” which his agent—the curvaceous, ferocious Minerva Cinch—insists he must abandon if he (or, more importantly, she) is ever to make any money. “You may be perfectly content in your badgery little cottage living on poached mice and hedge fruit,” she tells him, “but my tastes run a little richer.” Cinch wants high fantasy, “Tolkien with knobs on,” and she even draws him a hilarious template (on the back of a page from Murdstone’s most recently submitted manuscript): “mock-Shakespearean without the rhyming bits.... Bags of capital letters.” Murdstone has no aptitude for this, but Peet is certainly up to the task, alternating the writer’s story with a summary of the epic fantasy he produces after a fateful (and highly drunken) encounter on the moor with a dwarfish creature named Pocket Wellfair. Whether the story Murdstone turns in is actually his or he is merely taking dictation from Wellfair will depend on what readers conclude about Murdstone’s sanity/sobriety. Either way, the fantasy is a big hit, which means Murdstone has to come up with the next book in the trilogy—quick. The novel was published for adults in the U.K., and it’s easy to see why: there isn’t a teenage character in sight, and the concerns—about career, reputation, parochialism, and looming bankruptcy—are all adult, too. Regardless, Peet’s book is enormous fun, especially for those familiar with the literary conventions it skewers, and it’s a brilliant valedictory for the author, who died in March. Ages 16–up. (Sept.)