Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Something Wicked

Something Wicked

Alan M. Gratz
For ages 14 and up
Penguin, 2009   ISBN: 978-0142414965

Horatio Wilkes is going to a Scottish Highland Games on Mount Birman with his friends Mac and Banks. Both Mac and Banks are pretty serious about the games, donning kilts and participating in events. Mac's girlfriend Beth comes along too and Horatio soon sees that his friend is pretty firmly under his girlfriend's thumb and he does almost everything she asks of him. When Beth announces that she wants to go to Madame Hecate's to have her fortune told, Mac readily agrees – much to Horatio's disgust.

Madame Hecate tells Mac that he will become "king of the mountain." Mac is thrilled, believing everything that the fortune teller tells him. He is not best pleased therefore when he hears that Banks – his cousin – will not become king of the mountain, instead his will "own" it.

Mac's father has long wanted to own the mountain so that he can turn it into a money-making resort, but the man who owns the land, Duncan MacRae – who is Mac's maternal grandfather - has always refused to sell it. That very evening Horatio finds Duncan MacRae brutally murdered. Evidence at the scene of the crime suggests that Duncan's son Malcolm was responsible, but Horatio is not convinced. Why would mild mannered Malcolm do such a terrible thing? It just doesn't make sense. Furthermore, there are other people around who had a much bigger motive than Malcolm. Mac's father, Beth's father, and Mac himself would all benefit if Duncan MacRae died.

In this second Horatio Wilkes mystery, readers will be taken into the American Scottish clans community, a community that has its own traditions, rules, and culture. Readers who are familiar with Shakespeare will quickly realize that this story is based on the tale of Macbeth, the ambitious Scot who could not let go of a dangerous dream. Alan Gratz's gritty story shows how a simple ambition can become a corrupting passion. His characters are incredibly lifelike, and true to the feelings and thoughts that teenagers experience.

In his first book about Horatio Wilkes, Something Rotten, Alan Gratz gives a unique interpretation of Shakespeare's Hamlet, which is also set in modern day America.