September 08, 2005


Pure Dead Trouble. By Debi Gliori. Knopf. $15.95.

     To begin with, there is Isagoth, Defense Minister of Hades (Wet Affairs), the parenthetical words referring to “the department of Hades that deals with anything involving decapitation, defenestration, evisceration, immolation, amputation, and assorted tortures too excruciating to mention.”

     Well, actually, to begin with there is Latch, faithful butler to the Strega-Borgia family, lying comatose on the front doorstep of the Strega-Borgia home, StregaSchloss.

     Well, no.  To begin with, there are the Strega-Borgias returning from a vacation in Italy, looking “as if they had recently returned from a funeral; indeed, as if all five of them had narrowly escaped being buried themselves.”

     Hmm.  Not quite.  You see, to begin with there was Pure Dead Magic, and then there was Pure Dead Wicked, and then came Pure Dead Brilliant, and now we have the fourth book of the trilogy.  Or…wait a bit.  Sorting out what Debi Gliori is doing isn’t too simple.  The first three books did make a very satisfying trilogy, and there was no particular reason to expect a fourth book, but there were many reasons to want a fourth one about the rather odd and slightly supernatural family living on the shores of a Scottish loch with several mythical beasts, including a purebred dragon that in this book has a child fathered by famous but unnamed loch creature, said dragon now preparing her wedding to said creature, except there’s the comatose butler to worry about and Tarantella the tart-tongued tarantula displaying her usual attitude and Damp being not only damp but also highly surprising, and…

     Look, don’t throw a synchronized wobbly (a group hissy fit).  It’s hard to describe or encapsulate Gliori’s books, which are some of the funniest and oddest around (and are pretty gross, too).  Numpties (idiots) and plonkers (fools) won’t enjoy the comings and goings of the various weird characters, but the bursts of Scottish slang and the thoroughly bizarre thoughts and actions of such characters as Multitudina the Illiterat (pet of 11-year-old Pandora Strega-Borgia and a better breeder than reader) will keep everyone else too busy laughing to be hacked off (peeved).  There really is a mystery here, and Gliori has great fun solving it while giving an increasingly important role to Flora McLachlan (reluctant but powerful magic wielder and nanny to Pandora, 13-year-old Titus and two-year-old Damp, who usually is).  All by themselves, the scenes involving Isagoth and S’tan the Boss (First Minister of the Hadean Empire) are worth the price of the book.  That’s no porky (lie).  Neither is this: this book is decidedly not the end of Gliori’s series.  You can be pure dead certain of that.

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