The Bookshop at the Back of Beyond
Walker Books, 2023
256pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99
Nine, so called because she was the 9th thief to be recruited to the gang of pickpockets led by the evil Pockets, is back with her new friends – Flabbergast a wizard who has lost his magic, Eric the troll who can’t cook (but insists on doing so), Bonehead the gloomy skeleton, Cas the gargoyle, and Dr Spoon, the wooden spoon- is back on the third, and possibly final, episode of this magical mystery series for younger, independent readers.
Having cured the house of its hiccups, they are off to the strange and utterly unpredictable Back of Beyond in search of Professor Dish – Spoon’s best friend and partner in all things alchemy – so he and Spoon can continue working on their secret recipe for making gold. But such a formula is always going to attract attention so when they find Dish trapped by the greedy witch Ophidia in the basement of a particularly marvellous shop, it soon becomes clear they’re going to need something more than Flabberghast’s dicey magic and Nine’s quick thinking to triumph this time. What they really need is a rather clever witch – one particularly good at curses… Because as well as the captors, there is also Flabbergast’s sister, who also is at odds with her brother (she shrank him and his house in book 1) and doesn’t like their aunts either, to contend with as she has her own agenda and plans.
To add to the intrigue, Nine has discovered that her mother, an occupant of the house in years gone by, left something deposited with the Safekeeper (also found in Beyond) and Nine is determined to find out what it is. On top of that there is a suspicion that Dr Spoon may not be telling the full story of what he and Professor Dish were working on…
With the introduction hinting that everyone, everywhere has a secret that will eventually come to light and cause consequences, this is a book of twists and turns that will keep every reader guessing as they travel to wondrous places that inspire and spark the imagination. Best read in order, this is a series to capture those who enjoy this genre (including Miss 11 who has been waiting not-so-patiently for this one) . It is well-written, thorough and even this non-fantasy fan enjoyed it.