One of the joys of creating anything or experiencing something that someone else has created, is being able to identify the stencils that help shape the creation. This is my slightly pompous way of saying that I like it when I read a book and can see what works or what genres are shaping the story, and by extension, my enjoyment of it. Derek Landy’s latest instalment in his Skulduggery Pleasant series is one such example.
Midnight sees sorcerer detectives Valkyrie Cain and Skulduggery Pleasant trying to track down the newly resurrected Princess of the Darklands, Abyssinia, before she is reunited with her son and executes her plans for a war. Unfortunately, the case gets derailed slightly when a psycho serial killer, Cadaverous Gant, kidnaps Valkyrie’s sister, luring Valkyrie into a sadistic and deadly game of cat and mouse, the rules being she has until midnight to save Alice and must play the game alone.
By this stage in the series, the family friendly, young adult vibe of the first few books is well and truly gone. Our hero –whom readers are meant to have grown up with a la Harry Potter– is now well into her twenties and, as such, her adventures as well as their contents and the way in which Landy regales them have become darker and more mature reads, shifting the series further into the realms of teen fiction.
Midnight is the book where Landy decided to let his appreciation of crime fiction and semi-gothic, pulp fiction run wild. The character of Skulduggery Pleasant already conjures images of a skeletal Humphrey Bogart with an Irish accent (always has and, for me at least, always will), but in Midnight there is this wonderfully macabre vibe reminiscent of Harris’ Silence of the Lambs or the film Se7en – you know, that sadistic race against the clock quest narrative that produces some gruesome scenes along the way. Certain events that take place also send your mind to the horror novels of H. G. Wells, or at the very least black and white B-movies of the 1940s like Bloodlust, and these genre tropes and recycled story ideas give the book a fresh and exciting edge that secures it in its shift from YA (young adult) to teen fiction.
Alongside the central story of Valkyrie’s race to save her sister, are the hidden agendas of other characters that only the readers know about, rounding out the novel with intrigue and suspense to alleviate some of the action, adrenaline, and gore. And, as ever, Skulduggery Pleasant continues to offer readers a breathing space between sagas of violence and drama with witty banter and stupidly funny moments of comedy.
Midnight is the second instalment in the second series of Derek Landy’s Skulduggery Pleasant novels (for reviews of his other books, check out Hannahbelle’s Shelf) A relatively new release, only hitting shelves some months ago, it’s an exciting continuation from Resurrection and was published by HarperCollins Children’s Books.