Sunday, August 24, 2014

MMGM: A Hitch at the Fairmont by Jim Averbeck


An intrepid boy teams up with Alfred Hitchcock himself in this rollicking mystery rife with action, adventure, intrigue, and all the flavor of film noir.

After the mysterious death of his mother, eleven-year-old Jack Fair is whisked away to San Francisco's swanky Fairmont Hotel by his wicked Aunt Edith. There, he seems doomed to a life of fetching chocolates for his aunt and her pet chinchilla. Until one night, when Aunt Edith disappears, and the only clue is a ransom note written... in chocolate?

Suddenly, Jack finds himself all alone on a quest to discover who kidnapped Aunt Edith and what happened to his mother. Alone, that is, until he meets an unlikely accomplice: Alfred Hitchcock himself! The two embark on a madcap journey full of hidden doorways, secret societies, cryptic clues, sinister villains, and cinematic flair.


Jim Averbeck is the author and illustrator of the picture books Oh NO, Little Dragon! and Except If.  A Hitch at the Fairmont is his first novel.  He studied Children's Book Writing and Illustration at the University of California Berkeley and now makes his home in San Francisco.  You can visit him at


I've read many children's mystery books in my time and unfortunately many of them start to blur together after a while because so many of the elements are similar.  I always love it when I come across one that is different enough to stand out.  A Hitch at the Fairmont is different enough to stand out. 

The book starts with Jack attending his mother's funeral at a funeral home, but their's no body to bury. After getting caught checking out the dead bodies in the basement, Jack is whisked away to the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco by his Aunt Edith.  Unfortunately for Jack, his Aunt Edith is not at all a nice person and she keeps hounding him about a code or series of numbers that he knows nothing about.  All he has left of his old life is his ability to remember everything he sees and draw it accurately and the dog tags and coffin necklace from the father he never knew.

Everything changes when Aunt Edith disappears and Jack must find her quickly before he ends up in an orphanage.  The inclusion of Alfred Hitchcock in the book creates a really interesting subplot, especially with each chapter named after one of Hitchcock's movies (it took me a while to notice this).  I developed a sudden urge to watch some of Hitchcock's movies.  The inclusion of storyboard illustrations at the beginning of each chapter was another clever touch that I enjoyed.  I also learned a lot about Hitchcock and how he made such successful movies.  It was also nice to read Averbeck's notes at the end about what he fictionalized and what he didn't.

The Fairmont Hotel was a great setting for a mystery and Averbeck takes every advantage of it.  I would love to visit the place.  

As I read the book I quickly figured some things out before the characters did, it made me want to leap into the book and show Jack some things he's missed (luckily he does eventually figure it out).  And so I thought I knew where the book was going until, BANG, the author through in some very unexpected twists that changed the direction of the story altogether.  The best mysteries do this, creating an enjoyable story that still manages to surprise you without leaving you completely in the dark.

A great book for readers who like longer more involved mysteries with lots of intrigue and humor.

Be sure to check out Shannon Messenger's blog for more great Middle Grade recommendations.

1 comment:

  1. I have also recently finished this one. I enjoyed it like you, but wondered if it would find an MG audience. The length is twice that of many other mysteries and not sure how many 11-12 year olds would connect with the references to Hitchcock. Anyway it was a fun ride.


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