Monday, July 25, 2011

Something Rotten by Alan Gratz

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?


Genre: mystery

Rating: 4.5/5

Note: #3 of Modern Retellings of Classics Challenge (Hamlet)

This was one of the best retellings or spin offs of Shakespeare I've ever read. Sure, there were parts where the author was trying a bit too hard, but on the whole this was Hamlet twisted into a very believable mystery with a noir flare. This would be a great companion for teenagers actually reading Hamlet. Horatio does some stupid stuff as detective, but then again he's just a teenager and a reluctant investigator. Hamilton is a jerk through most of the book, but his moments of likableness makes it understandable why Horatio is best friends with him before things got all weird. And the issue with Olivia is understandable too. Horatio might like her, but she and Hamilton have far too much baggage for that to go anywhere.

Horatio is a great protagonist. He's sarcastic to the point of being mean and has no thrill of the chase when it comes to solving this mystery. There's such a noir feel to the whole thing, with Horatio doling out zingers, falling for the wrong girl, and reluctantly solving a mystery. And of course, like the film noir hero, once the action is done he leaves the girl with the better man for her and rides off into the sunset. While it was nowhere near as serious, I was reminded of the movie Brick, a film noir set in a high school. Let me quickly comment on the cover too. While I'm not a big fan of the faces, I do like the fact that the cover is done in the colors of the Danish flag. On the whole, this was just a sharp retelling.

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