Friday, May 4, 2012

The Tilting House

The Tilting House
Tom Llewellyn
Tricycle Press, 2010
$15.99, Hardcover
March 28th, 2012

Genre: Mystery, Fantasy
Age: 8+
Description: Josh and Aaron Peshik are about to move into a new house. It’s so big and their parents get a deal on it when they learn it won’t sell because it is supposedly haunted and all the floors in the house actually tilt. Their dad, a struggling art museum curator, is intrigued by the tilting floors and the crazy chicken scratch notes that adorn every inch of every wall written there by the previous owner of the house, F.T. Tilton—a recluse who was supposedly a brilliant inventor. Seeing a possible artistic find, they move into the house and soon the boys, with the help of their neighbor Lola, discover that Tilton may have been hiding a dark secret that could spell disaster for the entire Peshik family. Can they solve the mystery in time? 
Opinion: This was a very odd book. At first, the premise of moving into a tilting, potentially haunted, house seems interesting and hints that the book might be a scary story but then not even 15 pages in readers are introduced to the talking rats that live in the attic and no one—even the boys’ father—blinks an eye. They act like talking rats are a normal species everyone encounters. The boys and their father act so nonchalantly to the existence of talking rats that they whole feel of the story completely changes. Added to this the fact that the talking rats, which really are focused in the first one to three chapters, don’t actually provide much to the overall plot is all the more odd as to why they are even there in the first place. Is this a mystery book or an animal fantasy? Then there are the “Vultures”—two odd older men with a “list” they consult as they go around the neighborhood trying to sell coffins and funeral plans to people—including young Aaron—who “need” them because a few days later those people—including Lola’s stepdad—wind up dead. So there is a whole subplot (happening about half way through the short novel long before they even begin investigating Tilton) were the boys steal the list from the Vultures, destroy it, and Aaron narrowly misses getting hit by a truck. Then those Vulture characters, who took up a big chunk of the middle of the novel, also completely disappear. Finally, we get to the point where the boys find a box in the attic which contains the journal of Tilton and they begin to believe he was possibly a murderer and the body of his murder victim is buried in their cellar. The rest of the book follows them trying to solve that mystery. This is such an odd book. It just seems like the author had three totally different stories written—an animal fantasy about talking, intelligent rats, a creepy creature story about the Vultures and their list, and the murder mystery—and, not wanting to write three different books, the author decided to throw them into a blender to make this novel. It just tries too hard to be too many things at once which really distracted from actually reading the story.

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