The Last Chance Hotel was our children’s book club’s first exposure to whodunit. But it wasn’t your ordinary whodunit, it was a magical murder mystery!
“Seth is the oppressed kitchen boy at the remote Last Chance Hotel, owned by the nasty Bunn family. His only friend is his black cat, Nightshade. But when a strange gathering of magicians arrives for dinner, kindly Dr Thallomius is poisoned by Seth’s special dessert. A locked-room murder investigation ensues – and Seth is the main suspect. The funny thing is, he’s innocent … can he solve the mystery and clear his name, especially when magic’s afoot?”
Locked rooms and recipes
The classic locked room murder was a foot with references to Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie galore. As with this kind of set up, there were a lot of names for the children to remember, some not very easy to get your head, or your tongue around: Torpor Thallomius, Darinder Dunster-Dunstable! There was however a helpful guest list at the start and Thornton provided regular recaps.
We supplemented this by each drawing a character from the book to help visualise them. We then held our own mock trials with each character having to argue whether they were guilty or not using the clues we had read so far.
We also created our own recipes for a crime and discovered a red herring may not always be a fish! A great way of introducing the conventions of a whodunit.
I confess I didn’t get quite as much out of it as I have done with some of the other children’s book club books but I always think it is unfair for an adult to judge children’s literature. The children struggled with the beginning of the book which put a lot of them off but those that persevered thought it well worth their while. Thornton tees it up perfectly for a sequel and overall it’s a good introduction to the genre.
If you liked this try The Clockwork Sparrow by Katherine Woodfine.
We are giving away one beautiful copy of The Last Chance Hotel to one lucky reader. Entry is via Twitter or Facebook and is open to UK residents only. Competition closes on 4 May so get entering and (sorry!) May the fourth be with you!!!!!