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Reviewed by Jessica Jesinghaus for Readers' Favorite
What might happen if a rather inept Victorian detective were to find himself suddenly in the Egyptian afterlife, charged with solving a case for none other than the god Anubis himself? Why hilariousness, of course! Barnabas Tew and The Case Of The Missing Scarab by Columbkill Noonan is a zany, quirky tale sure to tickle your fancy. Barnabas Tew has big dreams. Captivated by the notion of becoming a famous detective, like his idol Sherlock Holmes, it’s no exaggeration to say that Barnabas’ abilities fall miles short of his aspirations. His biggest saving grace is his loyal assistant, Wilfred, who, despite what Barnabas may think, is clearly the cleverer of the two. When Barnabas and Wilfred visit the London Museum’s latest attraction, an Egyptian mummy, Barnabas gets quite a fright: the mummy rises from its platform to deliver our bumbling detective to Anubis. The case: someone has kidnapped Khepre, the scarab god responsible for rolling the sun across the sky each day. If Khepre can’t be found, the afterlife is doomed. The catch: one can’t be alive and walk about in the afterlife! Hilariously, Barnabas takes it all in his stride but, unfortunately for Wilfred, Anubis takes Barnabas at his word when he flippantly mentions how helpful it would be to have Wilfred there to help him. Thus, our two heroes find themselves snatched from the living world of London and thrust right into the middle of the politics and machinations of ancient Egypt’s most fearsome gods and goddesses. Pitting the wisdom of the gods against Barnabas’ naivety makes for a delightful juxtaposition indeed. But can Barnabas hold his own against the ancient gods and rescue Khepre?
Where this story really shines is in its humor. You can’t take this book too seriously. The premise itself promises much “fish out of water” awkwardness. Add to that Barnabas’ tendency to speak without thinking (or simply not understanding that which he’s speaking about) and the laughs are plentiful. As an adult with a penchant for Victorian detectives and all things Egyptian, this book was straight up my alley. But I wondered how it would fare with its target young adult audience? On a whim, I read the first chapter with my ten-year-old daughter. She’s hooked. Columbkill Noonan manages to weave a fascinating and entertaining story. The banter between Barnabas and Wilfred (well, quite frankly all the dialogue) flows naturally. There were some excellent vocabulary challenges for the younger reader which parents are sure to appreciate. Fans of Egyptian mythology will enjoy the depictions of the various gods and goddesses, but those without prior knowledge of the pantheon will not find themselves lost. All in all, Barnabas Tew and The Case Of The Missing Scarab is a delightful romp and I cannot wait for Barnabas and Wilfred’s next case!