Sunday, December 27, 2009

Reader's Diary #558- L.M. Falcone: The Mysterious Mummer

Last week I knew I was out of season with Stephen King's Just After Sunset. However, I thought I was getting the Christmas spirit by reading L.M. Falcone's children's novel The Mysterious Mummer to my daughter. Despite mummering being a Christmas tradition in Newfoundland, this book was also better suited for Halloween.

Granted, those of you who are familiar with the tradition may be quick to add that mummers are supposed to be a little scary (that's half the fun for kids). But this one was a bit too much. It is probably my fault for reading it to a 6 year old. There's a lot of talk about superstitions and black magic (I even learned what a planchette was) and unlike Scooby-Doo mysteries, in which ghosts are usually revealed to be old man Barnes, the museum curator, the ones in here turn out to be real-- and they're murderous.

But I refuse to take all the heat. Even had my daughter been mature enough for such a novel, it still wouldn't have been a good book. First off, the very premise is unbelievably convenient (to Falcone, not the protagonist). It begins with Joey and his mother getting into a car accident shortly before the Christmas holiday. His mom breaks her leg in three places and sends Joey to Newfoundland to stay with his aunt for the holidays, while she recovers (from a broken leg, not a stroke, mind you). Why he can't stay (he is 13 afterall, not 6) while she recoups is never satisfactorily cleared up, especially since his mother knows that aunt Corrine "hasn't been herself" since her husband drowned a year ago. "Hasn't been herself"? Corrine turns out to be suicidally depressed (that means she doesn't want to live, sweetheart) and practically starves and neglects Joey for most of the holiday. Did his mom know her sister's condition had gotten this bad? I'd hope not or why on Earth would she have sent her son there? Not that she cared to find out. Her and Joey only communicate once or twice over the whole visit and Falcone conveniently adds phone static trouble lest Joey gets sent home early and the cockamamie plot is cut short.

It's also very Danbrownian with it's cliffhanger endings for every chapter; where a "!" usually means "..." But for all the failed attempts at suspense, the only real mystery was when the titular mummer was ever going to show up. Answer? Chapter 17 (out of 21 chapters). Here's where my daughter's and my opinions verge dramatically, where she thinks it's absolutely terrifying and I'm rolling my eyes at how stupid it's gotten. Fortunately it ends more abruptly this post.

1 comment:

Wanda said...

See now, that's why you're never supposed to judge a book by it's cover. Had I not read your review, I'm sure this one would have made it into the library bag. Glad I had the good fortune to pick up the "other" mummering book. ;)