It all started when Gordon Edgley died. Well, it actually started much earlier than that. I mean, if you want to be picky it "all" started at the dawn of time. Or is that just when time started? Never mind. The point is, for Stephanie Edgley it all started when her uncle Gordon died. Gordon wasn't much of a family man; in fact, Stephanie was probably the one closest to him. Even saying that, though, is a bit of a stretch. It would probably be better to say that he tolerated her presence better and more often than he did the rest of his family. Which still doesn't completely explain why he left his house, his fortune, and his book royalties to her. Actually, there's a lot of unexplained things about Gordon, even more so now that he's gone. Like the strange man at the funeral. The one wrapped so tightly in a scarf, sunglasses, and an overcoat that you can't even glimpse an inch of his skin. That was the first time Stephanie had ever encountered Skulduggery Pleasant.
The next time they were in the same room was for the reading of Gordon's will. The one where he left most of his things to his twelve-year-old niece. Much to the dismay of Stephanie's aunt and uncle, who got a boat (Uncle Fergus gets seasick), a car ("We already have a car!"), and a brooch ("It doesn't even have any jewels on it."). Stephanie's parents, incidentally, got the villa in France. Skulduggery Pleasant received the strangest gift of all, which is some very cryptic advice. With which he was completely content. This was not to be the last encounter between Stephanie and Skulduggery.
Having spent most of a day exploring part of Stephanie's new house, she and her mother get in the car to go home and find that the car won't start. The mechanic that comes to fix it has to tow it back to his shop. Stephanie convinces her mother that she can stay at the house alone while the car is being fixed. But, the storm that started while they were waiting for the mechanic grows worse as time passes. It is eventually determined that the car won't be fixed until tomorrow, and the road to the house is flooded. Stephanie is stuck for the night. Though it takes some convincing for her mom to leave her there.
Freedom and solitude: Stephanie couldn't be happier! Which lasts all of a few minutes. Someone is trying to break into the house, and somehow Stephanie doesn't believe him when he says he won't hurt her if she just lets him in to get what he wants. Skulduggery Pleasant to the rescue! And what a strange rescuer he is. In the struggle with the intruder, Skulduggery's hat and scarf fall off to reveal only a skeleton! Stephanie is so shocked by this that she mostly forgets what he's done. Now she has a million questions: Who and what is Skulduggery? How did he know her uncle? Why was he at the house? How is it that he can throw fire? Can he teach her? And how does he stay upright when there's no skin and muscle to hold him together?
Stephanie is stunned, but oddly not frightened, by recent events. She was just contemplating how boring life was, and suddenly life got considerably more thrilling! Skulduggery isn't in the market for a sidekick, but he might just have gotten one. After one night in his world (he did have to keep her safe after all) Stephanie can't imagine pretending not to know what she knows. Besides, the bad guys are after her. Or at least something that belonged to her uncle, and now that she owns most of his things... Life, or death depending on who you are, will never be the same.
I love it! Not just a fun storyline, an exciting adventure, and a well drawn plot, although it does contain all of these things. SKULDUGGERY PLEASANT is one of the best written books I have encountered recently. Conversational and snappy, witty and self-deprecating, with a fantastically quirky cast of characters. This one has enough adventure to keep you on the edge of your seat, and random hilarity that makes falling off that seat a distinct possibility! I can hardly do it justice by merely describing it, so you'll just have to read it, and love it.
Reviewed by: Carrie Spellman