Book review

Barnaby Grimes: Return of the Emerald Skull by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell (2008)

More like Return of the Inimitable Barnaby Grimes...because he's back again, the tick-tock lad with his coalstack hat and swordstick. And he's still carrying his messages by the most direct route from one place to another, 'highstacking' over the rooftops:

The faster I am, the more I earn. Simple as that.

This time an innocent little commission to collect a parcel for the headmaster of Grassington Hall School soon tests Barnaby Grimes to his utmost:

'This is most fortuitous, Mr Grimes, for I have a shipment arriving next week - a most unusual-sounding specimen, I'm sure you'll agree...'
'Yes?' I said, intrigued.
'The catincatapetl,' said the headmaster, 'which, translated from the ancient Toltec, means' - he paused, a dreamy smile playing across his mouth - 'the emerald messenger of darkness.'

Uh-oh! More than just an attractively stuffed bird from the deep and distant tropical jungle then.

And perhaps it would have been the worse for Barnaby Grimes this time, if it weren't for his chance meeting with Mei Ling, the Chinese launderess and dangerously under-used character:

'Just touch you on the shoulder?' I said, making sure I'd understood.
Mei Long nodded.
I raised my sword and was about to tap her right shoulder lightly when she stepped to one side. Spinning round, I tried again, only for Mei Ling to swerve elegantly past me, whispering in my ear as she did so.
'Come on, Barnaby. Try harder...'
I turned and feinted to my left, flicking my sword arm out at the last moment. Mei Ling leaped high to avoid the sword cut, only to land on the tip of the blade for an instant - her elegant slippered foot balanced on tiptoe - before somersaulting over my head. She tapped me on the shoulder, her beautiful face wreathed in smiles.
'I'm sorry, Barnaby,' she laughed. 'I'm showing off. My grandfather says it is my worst trait.'

Luckily for Barnaby Grimes, she can teach him a thing or two.

Lovely gothic horror story. Highly enjoyable. Highly recommended!

What can I read next?

Brilliant stories! If you enjoy this book, there's more:

Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell are also responsible for the hugely successful Edge Chronicles. Try this one, it is the first volume of the Rook Trilogy:

And if you enjoy the rather gothic adventures of Barnaby Grimes you might like to pop in on Rossamund Bookchild in the Monster Blood Tattoo Trilogy by DM Cornish:

Also, the Bookchooser has found these books with a similar profile:

Barnaby Grimes: Return of the Emerald Skull features in these lists: