The Mummy, the Will, and the Crypt
By John Bellairs
This is the second book in the Johnny Dixon series, the first being The Curse of the Blue Figurine. As with the earlier book, this is a tale of supernatural, sometimes referred to as Gothic horror, written for children and young adults. While it is best to read these book is order, the stories will stand on their own, and can be read out of order without revealing spoilers.
The story starts with Johnny and the Professor on a sightseeing trip at the cereal museum. (No, this isn't going to be a silly story, that's just what they happen to be doing). It's actually the mansion of a very rich cereal Barron, who had collected a number of interesting artworks before he died. But the last room on the tour is his office, which has a table full of rather random objects. When he died, H. Bagwell Glomus had left these objects as clues to the location of his will. No one had been able to figure out what these objects meant, and in the absence of a will the estate had been divided equally among his surviving relatives. But his widow, convinced that there really is a will hidden somewhere, is offering a $10,000 prize to anyone who can find it. (Oh, it is relevant to note at this point that the story is set in the 1950s, so that was really quite a bit of money).
Johnny becomes obsessed with finding the will, despite the Professor believing that the whole thing is a hoax. Johnny continues the search on his own, and soon enough learns that Mr. Glomus was involved in the dark arts, and that some of his 'discoveries' are still haunting his estate and the nearby town. In the course of this adventure he also meets a boy named Fergie; they quickly become friends, and Fergie will certainly be back in the next book.
This is, of course, primarily a spooky story, albeit one with a lot of interesting characters, a very well-developed setting, and a number of non-spooky subplots. Two of these sub-plots are fairly dramatic: Johnny's father, a fighter pilot in the Korean war, is shot down over enemy territory, and Johnny's grandmother becomes very ill. This is balanced by a super-happy ending, making the book seem a bit hokey. But only a bit.
As with the first Johnny Dixon book, this novel is a bit weak when read from the perspective of adulthood. There are perhaps a few too many coincidences helping the plot along, and the puzzle for the will is a bit silly at times. I suspect the fact that this came out the same year as The Curse of the Blue Figurine may indicate that Bellairs might have been publishing some projects that he was not entirely happy with but that had been sitting around for too long. I have not, however, been able to find the story behind this, so I might be completely wrong.
Regardless, I enjoyed this book multiple times when I was a child, so I will certainly recommend it to readers of approximately 10-14, and perhaps younger if they are strong readers.
The Curse of the Blue Figurine -- The Mummy, the Will, and the Crypt -- The Spell of the Sorcerer's Skull
AR level: 5.3