A Hitch at the Fairmont
By Jim Averbeck, illustrated by Nick Bertozzi
Expected publication June 24, 2014 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Jack Fair is devastated by his mother's death - he's now a full orphan. To makes things worse, he is hastily taken to San Francisco by his Aunt Edith, a woman who clearly never intended to have kids. But when Aunt Edith goes missing, Jack enlists the help of the Fairmont Hotel's famous guest, Alfred Hitchcock, to solve the mystery.
I've discovered pretty recently that I'm rather a fan of mysteries, particularly those for middle-graders. I'm also quite a fan of books that reinvent celebrities or famous characters, so this book doubly caught my eye.
It starts our rather sad, though I suppose a lot of mysteries for kids do (and, really, could any be sadder than The Boxcar Children?), but it never feels hopeless. In fact, it's pretty easy to see that things are probably going to work out for intrepid Jack Fair. While I find it hard to believe that someone as famous as Hitchcock would have gotten involved in solving the boy's mystery, I can also see how it might have triggered his curiosity and he might have gotten swept away. Though I doubt there are many middle-grade readers (and by that I mean readers who are actually in the target age group) who are also Hitchcock fans, they may exist, and I think Averbeck does them a great service here. He's presented Hitchcock as a believable and entertaining character and suggested that parts of Jack's adventure may have inspired his later films. I liked that Averbeck used Hitchcock films as chapter titles; once again, it may be lost on many readers, but the author's note will make it clear.
My major qualm would be that Aunt Edith is too cartoony villainous - she doesn't really have any layers or depth that would suggest some ambiguity. In a book that's otherwise quite captivating, this is a bit of a disappointment, but one I'm willing to overlook in favor of the action-packed suspense that hurtles readers to the delightful conclusion.
Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy, provided via Edelweiss.