Mark Griffiths Books

Review on The Bookbag

Weird things happen in Blue Hills High School and the surrounding area. Not just the typical behaviour of teachers driven demented by their pupils, or the secret ingredient we all know is stirred into every school cafeteria pudding in the country, but the Doctor-Who-meets-the-Wimpy-Kid type of weird. For starters there’s a boy who can do magic tricks, and we don’t mean those lame ones which involve bits of elastic up your sleeve, either. This is walking across water and disappearing in broad daylight stuff. Then there’s the statue hidden in the bushes at the park, and the elderly gentleman who likes to hide teaspoons in his shoes. And once again, Geek Inc is on the case!
Our amiable duo hasn’t had a lot of exciting cases in the last few weeks. People are happy to report odd stuff, of course, but it always turns out to have some simple, boring explanation: just normal folk doing the occasional peculiar thing. Nothing new there: the human race will never win any prizes for being sensible. But now Gabby and Barney have a real case again, and this one’s as mysterious and intriguing as they (and the reader) could hope. There’s something well beyond the ordinary about Chas Hinton (apart from the fact that he always has all the writing implements he needs for lessons, which is, let’s face it, a bit on the suspicious side). Unfortunately there’s a terrible possibility that looking into it will separate the two investigators forever. Luckily for Barney he meets up with a pair of useful, though decidedly unlikely, allies, and the race to save Gabby (and rest of the world) is on.

Strange stuff that happens in a fantasy world can be a lot of fun to read. But there’s a special quality to books that set their oddness right in the middle of normal life, the kind of place the reader will see every day. Young people love the fact that right round the corner they may come across a shopkeeper who’s really a wizard, or a teacher who’s actually a part-time zombie (have you seen the way some of them drag themselves into school on a Monday mornings?). It’s not the likelihood of encountering random strangeness that matters: it’s the possibility, no matter how remote – the chance of a spot of mayhem and disruption to brighten humdrum daily routine. And if you tip into that wonderful concoction a generous dollop of off-beat humour, zany characters and villains who are as silly as they are evil, generously large print so the story zips along and some very funny drawings, then the result is a winner of a book.

You don’t have to read this series in order, but it’s a lot more fun if you do: look out for Geek Inc: Technoslime Terror for another exciting adventure and the hilarious background to this story.

Linda Lawlor

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