John Bellairs is, in my opinion, the most woefully under appreciated children’s author ever. Despite having written eighteen chilling Gothic tales for kids, he has attained little more than cult status. My all-time favorite book of his also happens also to be the first of his books that I ever read. As with most of his books, the dust jacket and frontispiece are illustrated by Edward Gorey, whose grim pen-and-ink illustrations add a deliciously creepy feel. The Mummy, the Will and the Crypt is one of many books about shy, nerdy Johnny Dixon who lives with his grandparents in Duston Heights, circa 1950. After a visit to a cereal mogul H. Glomus’s home with his only friend, the lovable, cranky Professor Childermass, Johnny becomes obsessed with trying to unravel the mysteries of the location of the Glomus will. When his grandma falls ill, the $10,000 reward for finding the will is irresistible to him. By luck, a Boy Scout trip to the White Mountains leads, Johnny to the Glomus summer home. Convinced that the will is hidden there, he sneaks back up only to find himself going head-to-head against scary forces Glomus himself summoned while tinkering with black magic and scrambling to preserve his life.
One of my favorite features of Bellairs’ novels is that not only are they funny and exciting, they are genuinely spooky. There is never a "Scooby-Doo" ending in which the villain is simply a cranky neighbor (in fact the cranky neighbor in these books is the hero!); the villain is always a warlock or a force summoned from Hell. Good fun for a rainy night.
Mark Locker / Charles P. Rogers Bed Blog