Set in the misty seaside town of Eerie-on-Sea, Malamander is a suspenseful read that is quite simply irresistible. In an attempt to save us from the horrors that may be revealed in the pages to come, author Thomas Taylor begins by asking the reader if you really want to keep going? Are you the kind of person who should just close the book and go back to your normal life or a curious person who, if presented with a mystery, must absolutely read on, regardless of the consequences? Of course, we couldn’t wait to find out more about the legendary fish-man called the Malamander – and nor will you.
This mysterious tale is narrated by Herbert Lemon (Herbie), the Lost-and-Founder at the Grand Nautilus Hotel who spends his days making sure that owners and their lost items are reunited as often as possible. Herbie was found washed up on the beach in a crate of lemons and doesn’t remember anything that happened before. Due to this inauspicious beginning, Lady Kraken, owner of the Grand Nautilus Hotel, thought it fitting to install him in the position of Lost-and-Founder. Mostly, he assists with a lost hat or bag, that is, until Violet Parma lands in his office.
Many years ago, when Violet was just a baby her parents went missing from the Hotel and now Violet has returned in the hope that Herbie will be able to weave his magic and reunite her with her long-lost parents. Unfortunately, this isn’t the easiest of tasks… Not only is a suitcase that her parents left behind missing, a terrifying Boatman with a hook replacing his missing hand arrives hot on Violet’s trail and he isn’t happy.
And so, begins the unravelling of an intricate web of secrets surrounding what is known as the Malamander and the disappearance of Violet’s parents. Filled with a cast of appropriately names characters such as Mrs Fossil, Sebastian Eels and Mr Mollusc amongst others, the reader becomes an eye witness to the investigation. It is as though you have a window seat at the hotel and you’re peering out into the mist that is enveloping Eerie-on-Sea, watching the mystery unfold.
Does the Malamander really exist? And if he does, why have so many people tried to deny its existence? Most importantly, did Violet’s parents encounter it?
This stand-out middle grade read will appeal to so many different readers, but having said that, I think much like Nevermoor and Lemony Snicket, older children and their parents will also love the intriguing plot. The layers of quirkiness, history, legend, natural history and small-town community all create a wonderful atmosphere.
Fingers crossed, there will be many more adventures to enjoy in Eerie-on-Sea.
Thomas Taylor is an award-winning author-illustrator for children. He illustrated the cover for the very first Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and has since gone on to write and illustrate several picture books and young novels; most recently he illustrated Scarlett Hart: Monster Hunter, written by Marcus Sedgwick. He lives on the south coast of England, and can be found on Facebook and Twitter: @ThomasHTaylor