The Unusual Suspects (Grimm Sisters #2), by Michael Buckley

Eight stars

Needing a short filler novel and wanting something lighter, I turned back to Michael Buckley and his Sisters Grimm collection. The stories pull on some of the characters that have emerged in the Grimm fairytales and place two modern sisters in the middle of the narrative, tasked with uncovering various criminal acts. Sabrina and Daphne Grimm have been living with their grandmother for the better part of three weeks. While they have already uncovered a significant crime in Ferryport Landing, they have not been enrolled in school. With a threat to send them back to foster care in New York, the girls are marched to the local elementary school and placed in classes. While Daphne is sent to be taught by Ms. (Snow) White, Sabrina ends up with a crotchety old man who wants nothing more than to rid himself of the students in class. Sabrina has a rough first day of class and ends up staying after school, only to discover her teacher murdered and the classroom filled with odd webs. Working alongside their grandmother, the Sisters Grimm begin poking around and bring their friend/foe Puck along to offer his own insight. Drawing blanks, the sisters turn to the age-old clash of humans versus Everafters—the latter group being those who gained fame in a Grimm fairytale, but are not able to escape Ferryport Landing under any circumstances—which could account for this dastardly attack at the school. Sabrina forges ahead and sticks her neck out, not caring who she offends, to get to the bottom of it. What she discovers leaves everyone clueless and powerless to stop the plan that could wipe Ferryport Landing off the map once and for all. Full of wonderful fairytale characters and interesting banter, Buckley has fashioned this YA novel into something that readers of all ages can enjoy.

I read the series debut not long ago and enjoyed the premise that Buckley presents. While not my normal reading, the series has an entertaining aspect to it, particularly when I need something short to bridge me through. The premise of the Grimm sisters is interesting and while it is not explored completely here, there is a little character development to whet the appetite of the ever-curious reader. Sabrina is the sarcastic pre-teen who is not happy with the pat on the head, needing to know things and refusing to listen to authority. Her younger sister, Daphne, is still pie-eyed and wants to love everything, but the jaded views spewing from her sister leaves her beginning to question everyone. Peppering the narrative with fairytale characters, some of whom do not match their depiction in the stories we all know well, the reader is able to enjoy a flavourful story that keeps things interesting and provides twists at just the right spots. The story, a YA mystery, is decent and the plot paces itself effectively. There are moments I found myself more connected to the story than I might be with many adult thrillers that I regularly enjoy. Buckley has a way of mixing sarcasm with plot development to keep the narrative intriguing and allowing the reader the chance to chuckle between scenes. Lengthier chapters keeps the reader pushing forward, if only to reach the next benchmark before turning in for a while. Buckley has an entire collection of novels in this series that I will have to discover before too long. A nice cliffhanger left me wanting to know a little more.

Kudos, Mr. Buckley, for another great addition to the series. I hope teens and adults alike discover this series and enjoy it as much as I have already.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

The Fairy-Tale Detectives (The Sisters Grimm #1), by Michael Buckley

Seven stars

Needing something a little shorter to fit into my reading schedule, I turned to this series debut by Michael Buckley, which takes readers behind the scenes and into the stories of the Brothers Grimm. Sabrina and Daphne Grimm have been shipped off from one foster home to another for many years. What they’re told that their paternal grandmother has agreed to take care of them, though Sabrina becomes very dubious, having heard that the woman died many years ago. However, after meeting the slightly eccentric woman and seeing family photographs, the girls are more apt to believe these tall tales. The transition from NYC to Ferryport Landing is a shock, though not as much as the truth behind their ancestry. Grimms have long been around to ensure that Everafters are protected, but also abide by all the rules, keeping humans from locking them away. That being said, the form of protection offered is isolating them in their current township and not permitting any further exploration. Surely a factor in all the resentment. Grandma Grimm explained further that she is a form of detective, working to puzzle together some of the odd happenings around Ferryport Landing while also battling the sinister ways of Mayor Charming, once an English prince and now a power-hungry fool. With Sabrina and Daphne on board to help, they come across a house that’s been flattened by what one can only presume is a large boot, beanstalk leaves surrounding the property. The girls watch their grandmother in action as she opens up the investigation and begins positing what might have happened. However, as luck would have it, a giant returns to the scene—large boot and all—where he scoops up Grandmother Grimm, leaving the girls in a sense of panic. A new mystery on their hands—how to retrieve their grandmother—the girls seek the assistance of other Everafters, while dodging some of the more nefarious characters who cross their paths. One can only hope that this will have a happy ending for all. Buckley uses some strong fairytale references, sure to entertain the young adult or teen reader, surely the target audience for this book.

Sometimes you need a reading break, but are not fully prepared to turn to the newspaper funny pages. In those cases (or when I need something shorter), I turn to YA books, where I can usually suspend my belief system and yet still be entertained. Buckley provides that here with this first novel in what looks to be a fairly developed series all about the Sisters Grimm and their detective capabilities. Mixing the story of two humans in a community full of Everafters (read: characters from fairytales), Buckley is able not only to provide the reader with some semblance of a connection to previous well-known stories, but also twist the character to suit the story, such as the sheriff who was once one of the three pigs but has since become a corrupted and hoofed authority figure. Buckley seeks not to create fully believed scenarios, but at least entertain with the characters who pepper the pages of this story. The plot is decent for what it is and I was impressed with the flow, keeping the story moving without getting too bogged down in silly humour (though what might be right in line with the age range for the piece). It served its purpose for me and I will try to use the age-appropriate filter here, seeing Neo return to these books in a few years when he is a strong individual reader and criticising my review for being off the mark.

Kudos, Mr. Buckley, for such a wonderful debut piece. I think I may return for more in the future, as there is something fun about these stories.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: