July 10, 2014
A Hitch at the Fairmont by Jim Averbeck
A Hitch at the Fairmont
by Jim Averbeck
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Dazed and lost, Jack just goes through the motions at his mother’s memorial service. Without a body to bury, all that he has of her there is a photo provided by her acting troupe. Where’s the aunt whose taking custody of him? Jack expected her to show up at the service but she’s late, pulling up in a convertible with two wooden cases in the back. Everything that belonged to him and his mother has been sorted and boxed up without any input from Jack who is wedged between these boxes in the back seat for the ride back to San Francisco.
Thus begins Jack’s new life. Hateful Aunt Edith barely squeezes him into her life at the posh Fairmont Hotel. She doesn’t even upgrade to a suite with a second bed. He sleeps on the too-small sofa and takes care of her pet chinchilla, a weasly disagreeable creature named Muffin. He does his best to do whatever task she gives him but can’t answer the question that she puts to him again and again — did his mother ever give him a string of numbers with no explanation.
One day Jack recognizes one of their “neighbors” in the hotel, a stocky, serious man named Alfred Hitchcock. He’s in town scouting locations for a new movie and doesn’t really want to get involved when Jack discovers his aunt missing and a ransom note written in chocolates on the bed. Finally, Jack convinces Hitchcock that he needs the director’s expertise in mystery, murder and mayhem to figure out what is going on before he is an orphan all over again.
Will they figure out what is going on before Jack becomes not just an orphan but a victim?
Although young readers may not know who Hitchcock is when they start reading the book, knowledge of his movies isn’t essential to the plot of the book. That said, it is interesting to recognize the movie titles used as chapter titles and the locations Hitchcock is scouting.
Through his author’s note, Averbeck makes it clear that the public knew one Alfred Hitchcock, mysterious, dark and brouding, while his family and coworkers often found themselves confronted by his practical jokes and sense of humor. Averbeck does a great job in bringing both of these figures onto the page to create a Hitchcock that middle grade readers can both identify with and adore.
The mystery is a fast-paced adventure, worthy of any Hitchcock novel and Jack a solid Hitchcock hero as his world is turned upside down even as he struggles to define his place in it.
This book is a bit meatier than your typical beach read but it is an excellent choice both for young mystery lovers and older Alfred Hitchcock fans.