The wooden steps creaked as Dan sat down, his legs two solid logs in front of him. He found an apple in his pocket, inspected it and rubbed at the blood splatters. 'Bite?' he offered. Alice made a revolted face and he shrugged. 'I haven't had any breakfast yet,' he told her, basking in the feeling of a job well done. 'Never do, somehow, on execution mornings, although I make sure the wife gives me a good dinner after. Mutton pie tonight.
Alice Granville's determination to recover the recently severed head of her beloved Uncle Frank wins her an unlikely accomplice in the shape of his executioner, Dan Skinslicer. Uncle Frank has been declared a traitor to the English throne and his head is morbidly displayed as a deterrent. Alice drags Dan on a fast-paced and slapstick quest to steal back the head and reunite it with Uncle Frank's body.
As you can probably tell, this is a light-hearted and tongue-in-cheek read. Although my local library had it listed as a teen book the simplistic style, slapdash humour and blood n' guts gore would probably better suit the 10-14 range.
It's a fast read with likeable characters and K.M Grant's humour shines through in the ironic and ridiculous dialogue and narration. Grant saves the best lines for Alice's clownish and aristocratic relatives:
Lady Widdrington, hearing the rumpus, ordered Ursula to throw open their windows. She was fond of riots and this sounded like a good one. As Alice and Dan galloped by a second time, the old lady recognized them and waved. 'That's my girl,' she cried, imagining that she was at the racecourse. 'Did we have a gamble, Ursula?'
The language and style is fresh and imaginative throughout, and the ridiculous plot becomes part of the story's charm. Parts of the narrative did become repetitive and the sub-plots were a little disjointed at times, especially that of Lady Widdrington and her hideous wigs! The romantic storyline came across to me as inauthentic and out of place. Barring that though, this is a easy, charming and funny read for gruesome kids and the young at heart.