Thursday, August 8, 2013

Shakespearean teen mysteries in the American South

Firstly, apologies for the lack of posts the past three months - the reason is that I have been well-ensconced in life working at a US summer camp. It's a bit of a bubble here, and I haven't really been reading as much as I usually do, or staying as 'connected' to the outside world as I had been the past few years. Writing about crime fiction, although still a passion, has taken a back-seat as I've been dealing with all sorts of issues for our campers and counselors.

However, one thing I am proud of, reading and books-wise, this summer, is that I've helped establish and stock a really good children's book library here at camp. So the counselors can read to the campers on a regular basis at quieter times (we're a sports and high adventure camp). I've filled the shelves with Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, CS Lewis, Roald Dahl, Lemony Snicket, The Hunger Games, and many other kids' favourites. Plus some classics, and even some mystery fiction (The Hardy Boys, Theodore Boone, and more).

One of my favourite 'finds' of the summer, as I scoured local bookstores and thrift shops, is a book called SOMETHING ROTTEN by local author Alan Gratz (local as in Western North Carolina, the region where our camp is situated). It's a modern re-telling of Hamlet, for teen readers. Here's the blurb:

Denmark, Tennessee, stinks. The smell hits Horatio Wilkes the moment he pulls into town to visit his best friend, Hamilton Prince. And it's not just the paper plant and the polluted river that's stinking up Denmark: Hamilton's father has been poisoned and the killer is still at large. Why? Because nobody believes that Rex Prince was murdered. Nobody except Horatio and Hamilton. Now they need to find the killer, but it won't be easy. It seems like everyone in Denmark is a suspect. Motive, means, opportunity? they all have them. But who among them has committed murder most foul?

I'm only part-way through the book, but have been intrigued by the concept. I was very keen to find some mystery and crime fiction for teen and child readers, in amongst all the fantasy, adventure, and other books. So it was very cool to find something by a local author that fit the bill. Gratz seems like a very intriguing kids' author - along with SOMETHING ROTTEN (and a MacBeth-inspired sequel, SOMETHING WICKED), he's written some baseball-related books for boys, and others.

Have you read Alan Gratz? What do you think of teen mystery fiction nowadays? What are some of your favourite crime or mystery stories from when you were a teen?


  1. Craig: There is a series in Canada called Leaders & Legacies featuring future Canadian Prime Ministers at 12 or 13 as sleuths. I have found it an excellent series. They can be found at Fireside Press.

  2. I hope you used the opportunity to advertise the very good home-grown YA fiction, including in the crime genre (Melinda Szymanik's 'The Half-Life of Ryan Davis') comes to mind. Plus, are you aware of our own Tania Roxborogh's excellent trilogy (Banquo's Son, Bloodlines and Birthright[ soon to be released] based on what happened after Macbeth?