Top positive review
Reviewed in the United States on January 4, 2008
I'd not heard of Matthew Haig before, but I got this from the Mystery Guild Book Club and it sounded intriguing. Essentially a modern and comical retelling of Hamlet, eleven year old Philip Noble first sees the ghost of his dead father at the funeral, who tells Philip that it was his own brother, Philip's Uncle Alan, who had him killed (this is not a spoiler, as it's part of the synopsis printed on the book flap) because he wants the dead man's house, wife, and money. Philip's father then sets a task for Philip, one that Philip has to complete within a certain timeframe or doom his father to an unhappy limbo beyond the veil.
The author does a fantastic job of getting and keeping you in a troubled eleven year old boy's head, which can't be an easy feat! So that you get a feel for the narrative, here is how the first chapter begins:
The First Time I Saw Dad After He Died
I walked down the hall and pushed the door and went int the smoke and all the voices went quiet like I was a ghost.
Carla the Barmaid was wearing her hoop earrings and her tired eyes. She was pouring a pint and she smile at me and she was going to say something but the beer spilt over the top.
Uncle Alan who is Dads brother was there wearing his suit that was tight with his neck pouring over like the beer over the glass. His big hands still had the black on them from mending cars at the garage. They were over Mums hands and Mums head was low like it was sad and Uncle Alans head kept going down and he lifted Mums head up with his eyes. He kept talking to Mum and he looked at me for a second and he saw me but he didn't say anything. He just looked back at Mum and kept pouring his words that made her forget about Dad.
It's really darkly funny and innocently touching, and at the end I was left with more questions than when I started, and I assume that's the point...