Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Dead Gentleman

The Dead Gentleman

Matthew Cody
For ages 12 and up
Random House, 2011   ISBN: 978-0375855962

It is 1901, and not long ago Tommy was a homeless orphaned street urchin who survived by stealing and grifting on the streets of Manhattan. Then one day he stole a little mechanical bird from a truly terrifying gentleman, and his life has never been the same. Tommy’s victim set about trying to retrieve his possession, and Tommy had to lie low. By sheer bad luck, the gentleman’s cronies found him and Tommy was about to be captured when a man in a strange underwater ship came to his rescue.

Tommy’s rescuer explains that he is Captain Scott and a member of the Explorer’s Society, an ancient organization of explorers who travel from world to world using portals. Captain Scott tells Tommy that the person he robbed is called the Dead Gentleman, an evil being who likes to destroy all living things on the planets that he visits. He has not so far been able to take over Earth because the sun drives him away, but this does not mean that he has given up trying. For some reason, the Dead Gentleman thinks that the mechanical bird, Merlin, will give him the ability to do what he wants. Whatever happens, he cannot be allowed to get his hands on the little bird.

Unfortunately, things start to go terribly wrong soon after Tommy meets Scott. The home base of the Explorer’s Society is attacked, and Captain Scott dies. Tommy and a boy called Bernard are the only Explorers left. One day, while Tommy and Bernard are exploring the basement of the Percy Hotel, Tommy is betrayed and he is sent through a portal to who knows where. Merlin the mechanical bird is left in the hands of the traitorous Bernard.

In the present day, Jezebel Lemon’s father is living in an apartment in what used to be the old Percy Hotel. She is visiting her father when she starts to notice that very strange things are going on. The ghost of a boy talks to her when she visits the basement, and terrifying monsters come out of her closet and try to attack her. Jez finally talks to Bernie, the old hotel custodian, and she finds out that the ghost she saw is a boy called Tommy and that someone called the Dead Gentleman is coming. Bernie shows her a little mechanical bird called Merlin that he has in his possession.  Bernie tells Jez about the Explorers and how they used to travel from world to world using portals. He also tells her that for some reason, the Dead Gentleman is using these same portals for some nefarious purpose of his own, and if he isn’t stopped the Earth will be destroyed.

In this unique and thoroughly exciting book, Matthew Cody takes his readers of an often bizarre and sometimes chilling adventure through time and space. Just when you think you know what is going to happen next, the plot takes a sudden turn in an altogether unexpected direction. Readers who enjoy steampunk tales, the works of Jules Verne, and fantasy (as well as zombies, vampires, and other beasties) will especially like this story.