Thursday, November 3, 2016

REVIEW: "McGrave's Hotel" by Steve Bryant

*****(5) out of 5 stars!

What a delightful adventure!  Set in 1936, this is mainly the story of James Elliott, the best bellhop at McGrave’s Hotel, even though he is not yet 12 years old.  He’s been at the hotel for a year, ever since his parents died while on a spy mission in Nazi Germany.  In that time, he has had to deal with a lot of interesting and difficult guests, but none, one gets the feeling, as bothersome as some of those who stay on this particular night. 

James and his new friend Fawn jump from one dangerous exploit to another over the course of the evening and well into the early hours of the morning.  He is quite resourceful and quick-witted, however, and enjoys a host of helpful friends and acquaintances, both old and new.  Which is a good thing, especially when they must out-maneuver Nazis, various monsters and different manifestations of the undead.

“Look, James,” [Miss Charles] said.  “No matter how I shuffle, I can’t make the cards stop coming up Death.  What’s happening?”

This is a solidly middle-grade book, with some spooks and frights and even a death or two, but nothing to graphic or violent.  And there is nothing untoward either, other than some rather easily averted unwanted advances by a would-be Lothario, and a rather chaste kiss.  It is definitely suitable for even younger middle-grade kids, but entertaining enough for adults and even teens.    

I was afraid that this book might be extremely campy and over-the-top, but it was refreshingly down to earth.  Much like James, it did not take itself too seriously, presenting the story in a very down-to-earth way, with subtle humor expertly voiced on many occasions. 

Life is best lived in the present, and time is too precious to waste dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. 

The story was not at all what I had expected.  It was full of interesting twists and turns that I would not have expected.  Which is generally not something much enjoyed (at least by us older readers) in a middle grade book.  Overall, a charming adventure that I highly recommend to just about any age reader.

This tale has a definite ending point that is more than sufficient for a stand-alone work.  However, McGrave’s Hotel would definitely make a wonderful setting for future installments, complete with a cast of delightful characters.  I certainly hope there are more volumes forthcoming, and more stories about James to be told.

McGrave’s Hotel.  Always the same.  People come. People go.  Nothing ever happens. 

 I received an eBook copy of this title free from Month9Books,
and have willingly provided an honest review.  

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