- The Lunatic’s Curse
Luridly illuminated cover art and a foreboding title should be enough to have eager hands grabbing for Higgins’ latest, but those who have already ventured into her dark lands of Pagus Parvus and Urbs Umida will recognize that these are comparatively gentle teasers for what lurks inside. This tale, now inscribed in Joe Zibbidou’s notorious black book (introduced in The Black Book of Secrets, BCCB 11/07), relates the tragedy that befalls twelve-year-old Rex Grammaticus when his brand-new stepmother, Acantha, has his father, Ambrose, committed to a lunatic asylum. Ambrose makes his escape when the inmates stage a rebellion and breakout, but he only meets with his son long enough to take him on a mysterious trip to a shadowy business establishment where the boy is drugged and . . . who knows. That night Ambrose is carried off and killed, leaving Rex with a couple of cryptic clues and the duty of solving the crime. Acantha arranges for her troublesome stepson to work for the asylum’s new director, Dr. Velhildegildus, and that’s exactly where Rex wants to be—within the building where his father said the truth lies. Though Rex has the support and assistance of a young maid just hired on, he can’t know the enormity of the cabal he’s up against—The Society of Andrew Faye, which is actually his mishearing of (dun, dun, dun) the Society of Androphage, or cannibals. Higgins is a deft hand at grossout, maximizing shivers and yet cushioning the horror with fantastic details of a Perambulating Submersible, a voracious sea monster, and diamonds coughed up from the floor of an icy, impossibly deep lake. Newcomers can enter Higgins’ world via any of her titles, and an endnote directs [End Page 83] readers to specific novels that tie in to plot points in this particular “polyquel.” This series is shaping up into an enticing, shadowy den where scary-story addicts can get their fix.