Festergrimm by Thomas Taylor – An Eerie on Sea Mystery. Published by Walker Books

It’s nearly the summer holidays and I was ridiculously excited to be granted an early mini-break in the legendary seaside town of Eerie on Sea. And my goodness… there was never a dull moment! Creepy wax works, a conniving villain a colossal clockwork robot reminscent of Ted Hughes’ Iron Man…adventure drips from every sea-soaked page. Oh, and watch out for the seagulls…you have been warned!

Our favourite ship-wrecked orphan Herbert Lemon, Lost-and-Founder at the Grand Nautilus Hotel, once again finds himself at the centre of an Eerie Mystery of epic proportions along with trusty side-kick Violet Parmer.

It’s late November and Herbie and Vi have been sent to greet a VIP guest of The Grand Nautilus at the railway station by morngy hotel manager Mr Mollusc. But nothing could’ve prepared the duo for who is about to step out from the swirling mist. A shocking blast from the past is back to wreak havoc on the town, plotting and scheming to their own gains and of course it’s down to the duo to save the town from disaster.

I feel the beauty of this series is that in each instalment, Thomas Taylor allows us to discover and explore different elements of the seemingly dilapidated town, steeped in myth and legend. As well as dropping into familiar locations such as Seagoll’s diner, Mrs Fossil’s Flotsamporium and paying the Mermonkey a visit at the Eerie Book Emporium, much of this adventure takes place in Fargarzi Round and the boarded up and very creepy Festergrimm’s Wax Works.

Formerly a hit with the tourists, the wax works has long stood derelict and abandoned, but it seems that amongst the dust and cobwebs is something of real value and key to unlocking the Great Legend of Eerie on Sea. And one cunning and conniving character is desperate to get their calloused hands on it.

The children break into Festergrimm’s and bravely explore (at night of course) you wouldn’t get me in there! It really is scary amongst the exhibits with their unblinking eyes and the ghost train that would whirr into action to transport tourists around the gallery. Bumps in the night lead our explorers to the cellar, where they discover their treacherous nemesis tearing apart the wax mannequins limb from limb, feverishly searching for something – it’s like a scene from Frankenstein!

After all the chilling thrills and spills, it’s time for cake and hot chocolate at Mrs Fossil’s and she sheds some more light on the legend. Turns out she has a personal connection to the wax works and is harbouring a shocking family secret. The answer lies in Festergrimm’s legendary robot and a missing part of the clockwork giant. It’s a race against time and Herbie and Vi must solve the mystery and set the cogs in action before their arch enemy gets there first…

This is my absolute favourite Middle Grade series. For me it has everything; gripping mysteries, just the right level of threat and such a well developed location and characters that each visit feels like returning to old friends at a much-loved childhood holiday destination.

Erwin the talking bookshop cat stole the show for me in this adventure. Always on hand to deliver purrrrrrls of wisdom in his trademark deadpan way, he dutifully directs the duo away from danger and hints at clues that they’ve missed. I imagine his voice to be that of Ian McKellen or Stephen Fry and I’d love to discover more of his back story – there is definitely a human trapped inside that feline body!

This is a series I don’t want to end, yet I am absolutely desperate to find out once and for all how Herbie came to be washed up in a crate of lemons in Erie on Sea and what happened to Violet’s parents. At the end of Festergrimm there is the usual teaser for the next adventure and I can’t wait to see how Thomas Taylor ties it all together in MERMEDUSA.

Festergrimm publishes on the 1st September.

A huge thanks to Walker Books and Netgalley for offering me the chance to read this fantastic story in advance of publication.

Click on the cover to read my review of the previous instalment Shadowghast

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