Bess is the kind of girl who is thrilled to get a set of lockpicking tools for her 11th birthday, and doesn’t really get on with the unicorn/rainbow-loving girls at school: she had enjoyed helping her beloved grandfather in his Odditorium of strange and wonderful things. When she finds that he has left it to her in his Will, she realizes that it will be difficult to bring in the crowds and keep it going, while the whispering flowers, who need magical food, have crept around the walls and made the building so unstable that the Council threatens to have it pulled down. Bess finds a train ticket in one of her exhibits, and discovers an underground station, so when a mysterious train full of entertainers pulls on to the high hill, resourceful Bess realizes that here might be an opportunity for adventure.
On the train, she is befriended by children of her own age, all with magical powers, and finds that they are going to the Land of Hallowe’en Sweets, where their mission is to find the ghostly gobstopper. They find that the land is more dangerous than it looks, living on sweets can actually get quite boring, and not everything is at it seems, but eventually the mission is accomplished and all is well. There was more to her grandfather’s life than she had realized, and the story ends with a hint that there is more adventure to come.
Alex Bell is now the author of many books for children, notably The Polar Bear Explorers’ Club, and the subsequent series, so the reader knows that the adventure is bound to be thrilling and well handled. This is a definite page-turner, and this reviewer is looking forward to the next one.