September 24, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: 'The Death Collector' by Justin Richards

 "Four days after his own funeral, Albert Wilkes came home for tea." 
Thus begins Justin Richards young adult sci-fi/ fantasy novel of a hidden, almost fantasy-like world in London. The beginning of the novel surely had me hooked. One of the best opening lines I have come across for sure and trust me, I'm not talking even about a couple of thousand but more, much more. But did the book continue to keep me hooked? Read on to know.
 The story has a Frankenstein flavour to it. The title alludes to the antagonist of the tale, Mr. Lorrimore, an insane rich industrialist and his morbid fascination for unique things that could make him rule the world. He even has a pet dino, kind of a T-rex, made of bone and steel, that is, half dino and half machine. He is behind a set of diaries that hold the clue to his ambition and in a futile attempt to get them from the museum, his goons end up burning the diaries and only a few survive with a small bit of parchment form the last diary, supposedly the most important. The parchment is kept by a museum employee, George Archer as he sees his friend being murdered by the goons. 

All of that is fine until, Lorrimore applies the concept to dead humans so that he might have some extra dimwits, who are ten times more powerful than normal humans, to help in his factories. Graves are dug and a corpse is found with human bones replaced by dinosaur bones. To investigate this, the senior most person of the department of unidentified artifacts, Sir William Prothroe of the British museum is called in. And he is not alone, along with him are three youngsters, George Archer; who works in the clockwork department of the museum. Elizabeth Oldfield; an aspiring theatrical actress and the daughter of a pastor and Eddie Hopkins; a teenage thief who has stolen from both.

 The novel as I said, starts on an amazingly high note with a recently dead man, Albert Wilkes (plays an important role in the novel as he was the holder of the diaries that contain the route to rule the world) walking inside his home and shocking his widow. It surely had me hooked but soon, the story started to falter and fall in places. I don't blame the author's structuring for it but the story did not have much in itself to keep me engrossed all the way. The author does not waste time describing things and in that way, the story is pacy enough. The characters are nothing to be proud of but I liked the way the author displays the brewing romance between George and Elizabeth, ever so slightly that you wonder what it was supposed to mean. Lorrimore as a villain does not create an impact at all, though the automation technique he employs in his half-alive machines surely manages to catch your fancy. And mostly the suspense can be foretold but I believe that is fine as it is an upper-elementary young adult novel. Read this if you are missing Doctor Who or want to relive Frankenstein in parts and pieces. I would go with a 3/5 for this one. I got this at a bargain sale recently, so I'm not complaining about value for money but...

Get it from Infibeam.



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