I am hopelessly and helplessly condemned by my own lust for literature that I recklessly and depravedly buy books with remorseless abandon. My day job is the ever more practical occupation of freelance musician. I'm not rich. Which makes my licentious book purchasing all the more irresponsible.
Sunday, June 12, 2011
Book Review for The Joker and The Chest by Bruce E. Murphy
The Joker and the Chest is about a teenage boy, John Marcellus. John has an irresistible compulsion to play “pranks” on handicapped people. He doesn't know why he does it except that he gets a “thrill” doing it. After his third prank his family sends him to a boarding school where he meets up with Morgan Fairway. Morgan is the headmaster's son and they become friends.
While helping to transfer everything out of an old school building into a new one, Morgan and John come across a decrepit chest in the attic of the old building. Apparently there is a mystery surrounding this chest and Mrs. Katanski, the elderly custodian of the school, knows something about it and is anxious for the boys to stay away from this chest. Could the chest contain evidence of a murder committed years ago?
Let me stop right there and say the above two paragraphs contain ingredients for a good story. Unfortunately Mr. Murphy does not develop any of these ideas nor does he tie them together. A plausible explanation is never given to why an otherwise nice, respectful boy like John impulsively plays pranks on helpless people. I might add that Murphy's use of the word “prank” is flawed. John goes beyond pranks. What he does sadistic and cruel. Slamming a child's hand in a door is not playful, neither is taking the crutches of someone with a broken leg or knocking all the books onto the floor of a girl with a broken arm. It's mean and hateful.
After an accident where John almost dies he is finally “cured” of his need to play pranks on others but his reformation of character is rather abrupt. Murphy would have done well to delve deeper in to the psyche of John. Why does he like hurting helpless people? Why is it so out of character for him to do so? These questions are not adequately answered.
Totally unrelated to this lack of character study is the “mystery” of a chest in the attic. In the end (which isn't long in coming-the whole book is fifty-eight pages) we find out...nothing. The mystery isn't solved, the story of the murder case is never told in full and we never find out why old Mrs. Katanski is so protective of the chest.
All in all a poorly developed plot with poorly developed characters. The makings are there. Maybe Mr. Murphy could go back and flesh his story out.
I received a complimentary copy of this book as a member of the
Dorrance Publishing Book Review Team. Visit dorrancebookstore.com
to learn how you can become a member of the Book Review Team.
If you'd like to buy this book please do so through my link. Thanks!