Thursday, September 03, 2020

The Candy Mafia and Don't Turn Out the Lights

Tidhar, Lavie. The Candy Mafia
September 1st 2020 by Peachtree Publishing Company
ARC provided by the publisher WITH CANDY

Nelle runs a private investigating business out of her mother's gardening shed, so she's not surprised when Eddie de Menthe, local candy bootlegger, shows up to ask for her help. She is a bit surprised at his problem-- his Teddy bear, Teddy, is missing, and he wants Nelle to find it. Teddy was stolen from Eddie's offices at an abandoned school yard, and there are lot of suspects. Could it be the hulking Mary Ratchet, aka Sweetcakes, who sells contraband with her coterie of Sweetie Pies? The elusive and fabulously Waffles, who specializes in outlawed pastries? Or mild mannered Bobbie Singh, who peddles his wares from under the counter at his father's shop? Nelle needs to investigate, especially when her shed is ransacked, she is approached by police who claim that Eddie is missing but who actually work for the agency that helps Mayor Thornton ban candy all over town. When research reveals that Eddie's bear might have belonged to the owner of the shuttered sweets factory in town, Farnsworth, Nelle realizes that she is dealing with a mystery even bigger than the turf wars in town. Will she be able to find Eddie or his bear, and also somehow convince the mayor that candy should not be outlawed?
Strengths: After a little bit of a measured start, this rewards to readers with a lot of action at the end of the book-- gun shots, chases, and some threatening villains! Tween readers always like a mystery, and always are interested in food, and this is a good combination of both. Definitely has a British feel, which will appeal to some readers. Nelle's set up reminded me of Sobol's Encyclopedia Brown; I half expected there to be an answer to the mystery at the back of the book. She was a great character, and her detective skills were on point.
Weaknesses: The whole "film noir" concept, with characters wearing hats and trench coats, doesn't appeal much to my readers, although I do see it a lot in middle grade literature.
What I really think: Now I want a garden shed. Reminded my a bit of Chris Callaghan's The Chocopocalypse which, sadly, doesn't circulate well, but also a little bit of Rylander's The Fourth Stall, which is never on the shelf.

49086077Maberry, Jonathan, ed. Don't Turn Out the Lights:A Tribute to Alvin Schwartz's Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
September 1st 2020 by HarperCollins
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

I have to admit that my favorite part of this book was Maberry's prologue-- especially when he talks about visiting school libraries and always seeing very worn out copies of Schwartz's work on the shelves. This is certainly true in my library-- the copies that were in my school library when I started in 2002 when I started are still in circulation, although I purchased new copies just last year. The original books were all published in the 1980s, so I did not read them as a child, although my own children seemed to enjoy them. I flipped through some of the stories not long ago and was kind of surprised at how... less than good they were! Doesn't matter. The authors who contributed to this volume (including Northrop, Stine, Ventrella, MacHale, and Z Brewer of Vladimir Tod fame) certainly have a great grasp on the twisty, shocking way that the original stories were told, and there's a bit of an ick factor to many. The only shocking absence is that David Lubar was not asked to contribute a warped and creepy tale. Maybe he was, and just decided to save his all for the Lawn Weenies books.

I'm rubbish at reviewing short story collections, so I'll just say that if Schwartz's books are popular in your library, you're going to need this book!

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