After many false starts, I've begun working my way through The Evil Book Stack in my bedroom. First book off the top: John Bellairs' The Hand of the Necromancer, by Brad Strickland.
Unfortunately, I don't own this edition with the Edward Gorey cover.
This is my copy.
At least it still has the E. G. frontpiece inside. Meh.
Written in 1996, this is the first Johnny Dixon story written entirely by Brad Strickland.
When Professor Childermass lends a bizarre collection of artifacts to the Gudge Museum, he secures a summer job for Johnny Dixon in exchange. Soon afterward the very strange Mattheus Mergal appears at the museum insisting that Johnny show him the objects, which were made by the evil wizard Esdrias Blackleach. Mergal is determined to steal the most powerful object of all: the wooden hand made by Blackleach just before his death. If Mergal posesses this frightful relic, nothing -- and no one -- can stop him from terrorizing the world. And as Johnny and the professor race to halt the demon, the wooden hand's force becomes ever stronger.... - Bellairsia
I give props to Strickland for recreating John Bellairs' writing style. Reading this book reminded me of Bellairs' first Johnny Dixon tale, The Curse of the Blue Figurine. There's a lot of attention to detail, and I love the little historical bits and pieces. There is plenty of creepiness abound, and Strickland didn't disappoint, although the villain did pull a Chatty Cathy towards the end. Isn't there some kind of trope out there, about villains confidently revealing their dastardly plans right before they get their asses served to them by the heroes?
A new character is introduced, a gal by the name of Sarah Channing. Her appearance fills in the gap left by Johnny's only other pal, Fergie, who has gone with his mother to Ohio for the summer. She proves to be able to hold her own when things start to get dicey.
After reading this book, I feel that my love for John Bellairs has been re-ignited again. I've just order three more Bellairs books from Amazon, used of course, and hopefully (crossing fingers here) with the original Edward Gorey covers. Well, two of them should. One of them is The Figure in the Shadows, the sequel to The House with a Clock in its Walls, and is illustrated by Mercer Mayer.
Next book I'm working on: The Haunting of Maddy Clare, by Simone St. James.