cover image THE FALL OF FERGAL, Or, Not So Dingly In The Dell

THE FALL OF FERGAL, Or, Not So Dingly In The Dell

Philip Ardagh, , illus. by David Roberts. . Holt, $9.95 (123pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-7476-5

This first in a planned trio of books called the Unlikely Exploits has more plot than Ardagh's Eddie Dickens Trilogy, but a bit less humor. The novel begins with Fergal McNally's catastrophic fall from the 14th floor of the Dell Hotel. Fergal's father, Captain Rufus McNally, a retired war hero who became "bitter, sick, and twisted" after losing his leg in a war injury, has an "excused parenting" note from his doctor and leaves the rearing of his children to eldest daughter Jackie. When his other daughter, Le Fay, becomes a finalist in a typing competition, Jackie decides to take all of the siblings by bus to go and cheer her on. Ardagh plants the usual twists and turns of plot, introducing a ventriloquist/poet named Hieronymous Peach, who befriends them on the bus trip and also figures prominently in the typing competition, and a house detective known as Twinkle-Toes Tweedy ("Stick around long enough and you'll find out why," the author/narrator says of the nickname); the detectives ties to Rufus McNally are revealed in the end. In addition to fun names and clever quips, the author plugs in often paragraph-long parenthetical asides (he writes of the word oxymoron , "[It] may sound like an idiot with breathing difficulties but actually means something that contradicts itself"). The tragic event around which the novel revolves provides plenty of black comedy to keep readers entertained. Ages 8-up. (May)