The Unusual Suspects is the second book in Michael Buckley's Sisters Grimm series (following The Fairy Tale Detectives). The series is about Sabrina and Daphne Grimm, effectively orphaned since the mysterious disappearance of their parents, and now living with their grandmother, Relda Grimm. In the first book, they learn from Granny Relda that their family has a long-time responsibility to solve and document mysteries, and keep the peace, among the Everafters. The Everafters are characters from centuries of fairy tales and stories, all of whom have been trapped in a small town in New York state for 200 years.
As The Unusual Suspects begins, Puck (the impish 11-year-old king of the pixies, who has been around for 4000 years) has moved in with the family. Like any younger brother figure, he revels in tormenting Sabrina, but he takes creativity and mischief to his own special level. To make matters worse, Sabrina and Daphne have to start school. Sabrina is particularly put out because school gets in the way of her primary project, which is using the magical items stored inside the family's Magic Mirror to try to find her lost parents.
Sabrina's incessant crankiness, and her deep-seated resentment of Everafters (who she blames for the loss of her parents), make her difficult to live with, and make school a tough adjustment. The insouciant Daphne fits in immediately at school, and simply adores her new teacher, Snow White. Very quickly, however, school becomes a dangerous place, as Sabrina discovers her teacher, Mr. Grumpner, hanging dead in a huge spiderweb, apparently the victim of an oversized spider. Other freakish creatures also appear, and another death occurs at the school. Naturally, the Grimms are on the case.
Here are a few of my favorite quotes, to give you a feel for the book, and for Buckley's low-key, yet humorous writing style:
"Sabrina had been to a lot of schools in the past year and a half, and they all had a few things in common. Every one of them had a couple of grouchy teachers, a bully, a bully's punching bag, a weird cafeteria lady, a bathroom that everyone was afraid to go into, and a librarian who worshipped something called the Dewey Decimal System. None of those schools, however, had a teacher-killing monster scurrying through its hallways. And they said New York City had everything." (page 90-91)
"... Granny Relda explained, as she stood up and crossed the room to a pile of books stacked next to the radiator. She tugged at a couple in the middle of the stack and sent the rest tumbling to the ground. She left the fallen pile where it was and returned to the table. Granny wasn't much of a housekeeper." (page 113) (I love the casual understatement here.)
""Puck, sweetie, no shape-shifting at the table," Granny Relda lectured." (page 129)
""We need to find you another word," Sabrina muttered. "Hey! I'm seven! I don't know a lot of words," the little girl (Daphne) said." (page 216) (OK, I find Buckley's routine reference to Daphne as 'the little girl' irksome, but I'm getting used to it.)
I think that these books are a lot of fun. I love the magical objects (the Little Match Girl's matches, the Golden Cap that the Wicked Witch of the West used to summon the flying monkeys, etc.), and I enjoy learning how each Everafter has adjusted to small town life. As with the first book, I do find Sabrina a bit annoying, but I love her younger sister Daphne. Puck is also a hoot, and I'm glad that he is continuing as a major character to the series. Mayor (Prince) Charming is also growing on me, surprisingly. The Unusual Suspects is an excellent addition to the series. I can't wait to read the third book.
© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.