A Hitch at the Fairmont - Jim Averbeck

Jack has just lost his father to war, and more recently, his mother, to suspected suicide. Her car went off a cliff at high speed and her body was never found. And if that's not bad enough, he has been "claimed" by his Aunt Edith, a corpulent and bad-tempered woman living in residence at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco. She keeps asking Jack about a mysterious series of seven numbers, but Jack doesn't know what any of that is about. Eventually Jack settles into a routine, riding the elevator up and down to get his aunt boxes of chocolates, and constantly finding himself in trouble with the bellman. But when he returns to the room one day, his aunt is missing and a mysterious message is written on the bedsheets in melted chocolate. As he tries to find her and scour the hotel, he runs into the one and only Alfred Hitchcock, who happens to be staying in the suite next door. The two work together to unravel a convoluted mystery before time runs out, discovering new secrets and revelations at every turn.

Averbeck's novel is a well-crafted piece of fiction, overall, delivering a story that is at once both perplexing and entertaining from one moment to the next. From Hitchcock dressing up in various outfits to outwit the criminals, to the quirky cast of characters that populate the landscape of 1956 San Francisco, Averbeck develops a relatively believable setting. Hitchcock is a wonderful addition to the tale, as well, providing not only comic relief, but also a character grounded in reality (though somewhat exaggerated at times, as Averbeck discuss in his thorough Author's Note.) He makes Hitchcock into an approachable historical figure, making him accessible to a new, younger audience.

Secondary characters were reasonably developed, though there were a few I wish had been more present, especially at the conclusion. I was also left at the end, wondering if it didn't seem just a bit too rushed after all of the buildup throughout the novel (there is a lot of backstory and I supposed I hoped for just a bit more from the final chapters in terms of coming back to some of the earlier minor subplots.

As well, I found myself wondering about the use of metaphors throughout, sometimes wishing there weren't quite so many. The quantity did make some moments feel overly verbose. There were also a few moments where cliche snuck in and made me roll my eyes: "In cinema we see with our eyes. . . . In life we see with our hearts." There were a few moments where I felt the plot began to lag, but the action-packed climax made up for those moments in my mind.

Recommended to fans of Hitchcock and Mystery novels

Also includes a list of films in the glossary, each of which is the title of a chapter within the novel. Explanations of what each film is about will give young readers and introduction into the Hitchcock canon.

(Note: This review is from an Advanced Reading Copy - Out June 24, 2014)


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