The perfect treat for YA readers with a taste for macabre comedy. Larkin Mills is a place where Competitive Basket Weaving is the favorite sport, and the only hotel is a funeral parlor; a place with toad infestations and locust nests and strange things lurking in the sewers; a place with an exquisite ice cream parlor, and a lot of death.
We meet apparently healthy Albert Dance, called a sickly child and booked into Larkin Mills’ Hospital for Specially Ill Children. Then his neighbor Ivor, who observes strange goings on outside the Dances’ house, and begins his own investigations — the presence of his oddball Aunt Morwenna and the looming memory of his deceased uncle spurring him on. Young Olive, who is given a battered accordion by her father, and unwittingly strikes a dreadful deal with an instrument repair man. Mr Morricone the town ice-cream seller, who has lines snaking around the block for his legendary ice cream flavors Summer Fruits Suicide and The Christmas Massacre. Mr Milkwell the undertaker, who has some very dodgy secrets in his hearse, and Campbell Milkwell, the undertaker’s son, who begins to uncover the true dark heart of the town’s mystery.
In the peculiar town of Larkin Mills, death might literally come knocking on your door. Jones cleverly reworks the tale of Lucifer’s fall from grace in this interwoven collection of 13 short stories, which reveal Larkin Mills as the epicenter of the centuries-old battle between good and evil. Bouncing around in time, the stories create a patchwork history of the town by subtly drawing connections between characters and events. Prime among them is a mysterious archaeological discovery that leaves a girl called Park orphaned and working at Madam Letrec’s wax museum, where she and another boy become instrumental in bringing the divine feud to a head. As the individual stories intersect, a larger narrative unfolds, and always off to the side are an inventive ice-cream vendor (Honeycomb Agony or Vanilla Vengeance, anyone?) and an unusual door-to-door salesman. While the idea of the fallen angel forms the twisting backbone of the collection, its role is more philosophical than theological, making this smart and morbidly funny novel ideal for readers who cut their teeth on Roald Dahl. — Booklist