Discovery in creepy old house makes for a different summer

PUBLISHED : Monday, 31 May, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 31 May, 2010, 12:00am

The Pickle King
Rebecca Promitzer
Published by Chicken House
ISBN 9781906427016

Eleven-year-old Bea lives in the nothing-ever-happens town of Elbow, where it rains so much that the residents are in danger of developing webbed feet. Elbow is a boring place to grow up, and during the summer holidays, when you might expect a bit of sunshine, the rain only gets worse.

The rich head off to the beaches of Florida in summer to escape rain-sodden Elbow, but when they get back, the rain is still where they left it. This is the setting of Rebecca Promitzer's The Pickle King.

Bea's father, a photo journalist, died a while ago and Bea misses him terribly. She also misses her mum, who lost her grip on reality when dad died and had to go live in a special hospital. Bea now lives with Bertha, one of her mum's friends. She dreams constantly of getting out of Elbow during those never-ending wet weeks of summer.

But that is never likely to happen, so all Bea can do is dream.

Elbow's only claim to fame is a successful pickle factory started up a long time ago by Herman Henderson. Bea adores Herman's Devil Tongue Chilli, and piles it liberally onto everything from toast to sweet pancakes.

It's another rain-lashed summer vacation and Bea is wondering what she could do to relieve the boredom.

She doesn't have to wonder for long. Along with her friend Sam, Bea discovers a dead body in the basement of a creepy old house, and suddenly all sorts of unpleasant goings-on are unleashed. With a gang of oddball friends, Bea finds herself in the middle of a crazy adventure with an extremely nasty mystery to solve. Perhaps this summer vacation won't be dull and boring after all ...

The Pickle King is sometimes scary, sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, sometimes disgusting and completely original. This is one novel in which you certainly don't know what's coming next.

During the course of their unexpected adventure, Bea's little gang comes face to face with a helpful ghost, a stolen bag of human intestines, a killer doctor, a garbage dump hiding disgusting secrets and a Frankenstein-like palace packed with human body parts. Promitzer packs so much originality and surprise into her debut novel that the book almost bursts at the seams.

The five youngsters involved in the action are very entertaining and alive with personality. These kids are real - not boring stereotypes many authors come up with.

The Pickle King is a zany adventure with dashes of crazy action - it's not for the faint-hearted.