Friday, April 10, 2015

Final Arrangements: The Loch Ness Punster (43 Old Cemetery Road) by Kate Klise

It was something Seymour Hope had been wondering about for more than a year, ever since he first met Ignatius B. Grumply. He finally asked it in a note one summer day.

Dear Iggy,

Why are you always so grumpy?


For a year Seymour Hope has lived happily with his unusual adoptive parents, Izzy B. Grumply, best-selling mystery writer, and his co-author, the ghostly Olive C. Spence Despite having been deceased since 1911, Olive is a lively, loving and adventurous spirit, but sometimes Iggy's deadly, dull-as-dirt persona gets on Seymour's nerves.

It all goes down when Iggy receives a warm letter from his Scottish psychiatrist great-uncle who invites him to visit his castle on Loch Ness to re-establish their relationship. He closes with a pun that makes Iggy groan.

"What do you call an old psychiatrist who's on his last breath? A sigh-chiatrist!"

Ignatius is dead set against a visit, on the grounds that Uncle Ian Grumply was a persistent practitioner of the pun, the lowliest form of humor. But when a telegram arrives announcing Uncle Ian's death and declaring Seymour his heir,  Olive C. Spence and Seymour call Iggy a neophobe, and proclaiming themselves neophiliacs, they pack their bags with Olive fondly recalling her enjoyable visit to Loch Ness at age 12,  and  prepare to leave Ghastly, IL, and fly to Scotland via Heir Air to check out the inheritance. Seymour gets a passport, Olive uses her death certificate as proof of citizenship, and soon they arrive at Seymour's charming, if crumbling, castle in Loch Ness.

But the two travelers soon discover that someone else has designs on the inherited property--the unprincipled real estate developer, Macon Deals, who yearns to convert the ruined remains of the castle and grounds into a gambling resort, Loch Vegas. Despite the opposition of the local believers in their venerable tourist attraction Nessie, led by restaurant owner Carrie N. Haggis, Macon Deals manages to convince the locals that his plan will bring fame and lucrative jobs to the area. All that stands in his way are young Seymour Hope and his invisible guardian, Olive C. Spence.

Meanwhile, back in Ghastly, IL, Grumply is being hounded by a desperate life insurance salesman, Garren Teed, who prepares a million-dollar policy for him, throwing in a two-for-one deal covering Olive C. Spence as well. Iggy is unimpressed with the deal at first,  but when he gets an overdue notice from the local librarian, M. Balm, reporting that the tortoise Seymour checked out under their summer pet-loan promotion has turned out to be the oldest on record and demands return or payment of a $10,000 fine, Iggy re-examines Garren Teed's policy and digs up a promising clause buried in the fine print:

This two-for-one policy shall cover Olive C. Spence and Ignatius B. Grumply. In the event of one or the other's death, the survivor shall present the authorized insurance agent a notarized copy of the the deceased's death certificate. In exchange, thew agent shall present to the surviving individual a check for $1,000,000, no questions asked.

Lamentably, author Kate Klise claims that she in laying to rest her lively series with her last testament, The Loch Ness Punster (43 Old Cemetery Road) (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015). Told cleverly and completely in letters and newspaper articles and filled with pun-tastic characters such as the local proprietor of the Ghastly Pet Store owner Barry A. Lyve, wiretap expert Eve Strop, media mogul Mo Block Busters, aging movie diva Ivana Oscar, newspaper editor Cliff Hanger, Constable Mike Ondolences, and Ghastly, IL's regular residents, Fay Tality and Shirley U. Jest, this memorable series is sure to be mourned by precocious wordplay-loving middle readers.

Kate Klise closes this unique pun-packed and funny series with a reunion, a family fortune found, and a wedding. Still, I'm dead serious when I say it is melancholy event to see the author put to rest the notable 43 Cemetary Road books, in which the lowly pun is raised to monumental status. The usually intellectual Kirkus Reviews can't resist being a pun-dit about this one, saying "This is a story that will make you feel lochy to be alive in a world full of laughter, love, and legendary surprises."

To relive the experience of Kate Klise's earlier books, see my reviews here.

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