The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Globe Life

February 6, 2009

Book review: Retelling proves to be a ‘Wicked’ read

‘Something Wicked: A Horatio Wilkes Mystery’

By Alan Gratz

“Something Wicked” is a very clever retelling of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth.”

Our hero and sleuth, Horatio Wilkes, is headed up Birnam Mountain with his childhood friend, Mac, Mac’s detestable girlfriend, Beth, and Mac’s dorky kilt-wearing cousin, Banks, to take part in the Scottish Fair held there every year. Before ascending, the four teens stop at a psychic’s shop in the seedy town at the base of the mountain for a palm reading. The psychic tells Mac that even though he didn’t make his clan’s team for the Highland Games, he will compete in them and win — Mac will be crowned King of the Mountain. Of course, our logically thinking Horatio does not believe in the psychic’s predictions, but the weekend’s events may change his mind.

The festival full of kilts, bagpipes and strong men throwing telephone poles for fun cannot begin until Duncan MacRae, Mac’s grandfather, owner of Birnam Mountain and founder of the Scottish Fair, lights the bonfire at the opening ceremony. Of course, when the time comes, no one can find Duncan. Horatio is sent looking for him in the campground and finds Duncan murdered in one of Mac’s family tents. All signs and the literal writing on the wall points to Malcolm, Duncan’s son, as the murderer, but Horatio isn’t convinced of Malcolm’s guilt.

Horatio is especially suspicious since, having been appointed to his clan’s Highland Games team and now the sole heir to Birnam Mountain, Mac has been increasingly interested in all developments regarding his grandfather’s murder, but seems unaffected by his actual death. Beth also begins acting strange after Duncan is murdered. When once she was antagonistic towards Horatio, she seems too distracted and nervous to hate Horatio with the same passion she had before. Could Mac and Beth known more than they should about Duncan’s murder?

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