Synopsis: A boy arrives at a remote village in the dead of night. His name is Ludlow Fitch—and he is running from a most terrible past. What he is about to learn is that in this village is the life he has dreamed of—a safe place to live and a job, as the assistant to the mysterious pawnbroker who trades people’s deepest, darkest secrets for cash. Ludlow’s job is to neatly transcribe the confessions in an ancient, leather-bound tome: The Black Book of Secrets. Ludlow yearns to trust his mentor, who refuses to disclose any information on his past experiences or future intentions. What the pawnbroker does not know is, in a town brimming with secrets, the most troubling may be held by his new apprentice.
My review: This is a delightfully macabre young adult books. I’ve been trying to remember the stories that stood out when I was actually (a long long time ago) a young adult but I was mainly reading Stephen King from quite early one (mostly from raiding the mothers bookcases). I would have loved this at a younger age.
My initial reaction was actually a comparison with Kings Needful Things and while I stick with that at the same time it really isn’t like that at all. Needful Things is about the bad guy (magician? Devil?) creating disharmony and chaos while the magician (for want of a better word) here Joe Zabbidou seeks to bring harmony to a town in despair from the bullying and blackmailing of their landlord. He does this with the help of a young boy on the run from his abusive parents – Ludlow Fitch.
Whilst set in a fictional place it’s full of Victorian imagery and pulls in all the most gruesome elements of that time – body snatching, teeth pulling (and selling) Sweeney Todd-esque meat pies amongst some of the more grotesque habits of this town. You get the impression Higgins had a whale of a time writing this and it shows in their writing.
It’s a must for any young reader with a taste for something non-saccharine and a fun quick read for the older readers that still enjoy a good story. I have the follow up and really looking forward to reading it.