Monday, May 14, 2012

Gumshoe Wizard: The Wizard of Dark Street by Shaun Thomas Odyssey

"Tell me, Deacon. Why should I be the least bit upset at losing my position as Uncle Alexander's apprentice?"

"Perhaps you should be upset because you've trained for the position since you were eight years old, the youngest apprentice ever. Perhaps because--despite your outright refusal to perform any magic whatsoever--you are the most competent talent to have held the position in over a hundred years. Or perhaps because your uncle is so desperate to find someone to replace you that he placed an advertisement in the New York Times," croaked Deacon.

“But, don’t you see, Deacon?” Oona said. “This is the perfect opportunity for me to start my dream.”

“I take it you are speaking of The Dark Street Detective Agency?”

Two, TWO, TWO genres in one! The first installment of the Oona Crate Mysteries offers middle readers a twofer, a talented, orphaned young wizard a la Harry Potter and a dedicated girl sleuth a la Nancy Drew, all in a quirky setting in a metaland called Dark Street, which exists as a buffer between the contemporary New York City with gates that open briefly at midnight and, separated from Dark Street by a magical truce, the malevolent mischief of the Land of Faerie. Oona is the embodiment of two lines, the wizardly one through her mother, and the craft of detection from her father. But since her one outright practice of magic malfunctioned and resulted in the death of her mother and sister, Oona has forsworn the study and practice of the dark arts.

Now Oona is preparing to sign away her rights as wizard’s apprentice to all comers responding to her uncle’s ad and to begin her career as Oona Crate, Detective. She even has a promising case, the inexplicable disappearance of Madame Iree’s enchanted ball gowns for the upcoming Dark Street Masquerade from her locked workroom as she entertained guests at tea in the next chamber.

But when a motley assortment of would-be apprentices assemble for interviews for her position and Oona signs the document releasing herself from her apprenticeship, her plans and indeed her whole world comes unhinged.

Oona’s uncle, the Wizard of Dark Street, is suddenly struck by a magical dagger which comes out of nowhere, and although the dagger piercing his robe remains, plunged into the floor, her uncle’s body has vanished. Oona knows that one of the applicants for her position must be involved in this black magic, but all are suspect–-a vapid young witch hoping for a change of vocation, a self-aggrandizing and pompous actor down on his luck, even a chubby rich kid seeking a new start away from New York society. Oona knows that without a wizard in Pendulum House to maintain the precarious balance provided by Dark Street’s existence, the evil Faeries will break through the Glass Gate and overwhelm not only Dark Street and its magical citizens but the human world as well. This task calls for both sorcery and sleuthery, and Oona knows that this is the case of a lifetime for her.

Shawn Thomas Odyssey’s The Wizard of Dark Street (An Oona Crate Mystery) (Egmont, 2011) has an engaging young detective whose task is to bring together the separate but powerful talents within her to restore balance to her world and to the human world as well.

There is a plentiful supply of weird and wacky characters--bumbling Dickensian duffoos, avaricious entrepreneurs eager to take advantage of the magic mania, magical manipulators, mean girls, and meddlesome muggles all at hand here, and our twelve-year-old heroine has only her own resources, with the help of her faithful, know-it-all raven, Deacon, master of the Encyclopedia of Arcana, to help her solve the case. Fans of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events and Nancy Springer's Enola Holmes Mysteries will find this one right down their (Diagon) Alley.

A wonderfully fresh fantasy-detective story,” says Publishers Weekly.

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