I think that Neil Gaiman’s fans would love The Dead Kid Detective Agency for one reason or another. To begin with a lot of the action takes place in a graveyard, then the main character somehow reminds us of Coraline and Bod and, finally, every now and then the narration becomes dark, without lacking though a sense of humor.
This is the story of October Schwartz, a thirteen year old girl that moves with her manic-depressive father to the town of Stickville where the latter is hired as a science teacher.
October is a lonely girl, with a healthy imagination, and pretty sad since her mother passed away ten years before. She’s growing up very much alone since her father seems to be enclosed in a world all of his own, and her only joy comes from reading books. She really loves reading a lot, her favorite author is Stephen King, but she also likes to write. She’s currently, and for quite some time actually, working on her first novel titled Two Knives, One Thousand Demons, even though her muse seems to have abandoned her lately.
The place she likes the most in the new city is the cemetery, which is conveniently situated very close to her home. She often goes there at night to think, to reminiscence and to read. And all is well, until there comes a time when she sees a transparent figure sliding away into the darkness; and then another. As she’s soon to find out every night the cemetery becomes the playground for the ghosts of five dead children. It’s exactly with these kids, her dead friends, that she’ll found The Dead Kid Detective Agency.
The first case that they’ll hire themselves to investigate is that of the murder of the French teacher, October’s favorite teacher. The six of them, along with her best (living) friends, Yumi and Stacey, will start on a journey into a world of mystery, full of obstacles and colored with agony, which will make their friendship even stronger, but that will also bring out the best of each and every one of them. October, that lonely soul, will all of a sudden find herself in the epicenter of the attention not only of the people around her, but also of somebody else, who doesn’t seem to have her best interests in mind. Each new day will bring with it a surprise, now and then pleasant, most of the times not, and every night will pave the way to new unrest. And, sooner or later, she’ll also come to realize that everything happens for a reason, and that her unwilling arrival at that place served a purpose after all; to create a new beginning for her life.
The landscape where the events of this story take place is bleak, but not scary. The author talks in a superb way about death and the traces it leaves behind in its passing, about loneliness, about the imagination, which is sometimes the only thing that can keep us going, but he also takes a good look into the fragile but complicated souls of his young heroes; especially his heroine’s. October seems to be brave but nevertheless frightened, strong but with lots of weaknesses, determined but willing to take a step back when the circumstances demand it of her. She’s a girl of this modern age, though she seems to remind us every now and then of a heroine from times past.
This is a well-crafted adventure, with a big heart, which can bring much reading joy to young and adult readers alike.