Monday, October 05, 2009

Out of the Closet! Billy Bones: A Tale from the Secrets Closet by Christopher Lincoln

Skeletons don't need much to survive. As you can imagine, eating is out of the question. Breathing? Not necessary. Nor is bathing. Really all that a skeleton needs to survive is a simple secrets-closet and maybe a family member or two.

The Bones family are the proverbial skeletons in the closet, charged by the bureaucrats of the Afterlife to keep, in their crowded closet, the avaricious secrets and clandestine lies of the perfidious Biglum family, sired by Pirate Pete, five generations of rapacious greed culminating in the current villainous scion, Sir Barkely Braggety Biglum. Ten-year-old Billy Bones, foster son of the closet skeletons, chafes under the restrictions of his parents' duties, managing the evil detritus of the Biglum's shady dealings, but finds his outlet in dreaming of the life of a pirate and hearing the stories of the world outside brought to him by his only friend, a beetle named Scamp.

Then a new girl comes to High Manners Manor, Millicent, the orphaned child of Sir Biglum's Bohemian sister Julia and her artist husband. Despite mistreatment by Biglum's wicked housekeeper, Miss Hester Primly, Millicent is a spunky girl who uses her punishment of midnight dishwashing duty to go on enticing "explores" around the manor house. Investigating a secret passage one night, she blunders upon a way into the Bones' locked closet and she and Billy form a close bond.. Together the two pledge to solve the many mysteries of the manor, especially the disappearance of Sir Biglum's identical twin thirty years before.

In their midnight explorations, Millicent and Billy encounter a potential ally--Millicent's own grandmother, living quietly as a virtual prisoner in a comfortable apartment in the attic near Millicent's own penurious quarters. There a picture of her twin sons, the missing Goodwin William and the nefarious Barkley at the age of ten, sets them to wondering what secrets lie in that lost boy's disappearance, an investigation which leads to seemingly impossible complications with the powers-that-be of the Afterlife and with the scheming, murderous Sir Biglum himself.

Deep dark secrets are indeed uncovered, with thunderous and satisfying conclusions for Billy, who learns that he is indeed the lost twin, locked up and left to die by his own brother, aided and abetted by the evil manifestation of Greed himself, and saved only by his Uncle Grim (Reaper), who bends a few rules to transform the starving lad in their closet into the much-loved skeletal foster son of Mr. and Mrs. Bones

Christopher Lincoln's Billy Bones: Tales from the Secrets Closet (Little, Brown, 2009), now available in a new paperback edition just in time for Halloween reading, is a delightfully and happily macabre tale of ghosts, skeletons, ugly manifestations of Gossip and Greed, and a repentant spectre in the form of Pirate Pete Biglum, whose bag of magical talismans gives Billy and Millicent a leg up in their cosmic battle with the forces of evil. There are plenty of laughs amid the mildly scary goings-on in the dark and dreary manor house before Sir Biglum gets his proper due, and middle readers will find this tale just right for bedtime or read-aloud entertainment.

A sequel, the just-published Billy Bones: The Road to Nevermore (Little, Brown, 2009), continues the adventures of Billy and Millicent, two unique and appealing characters, as they confront the supernatural, but nonetheless Byzantine, bureaucracies of the Afterlife and the threat of exile to the limbo of Nevermore.

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