________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 13 . . . . February 22, 2008


Sporeville. (The Wellborn Conspiracy, Book One).

Paul Marlowe.
Sackville, NB: Sybertooth, 2007.
215 pp., pbk., $12.95.
ISBN 978-0-9739505-4-0.

Subject Headings:
Detective and mystery stories.
Crime-Juvenile fiction.
Sleepwalking-Juvenile fiction.
Spores-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 8 and up / Ages 13 and up.

Review by Marina Cohen.

** 1/2 /4


"I've never seen a ghost on the road," she said, deciding that Elliott had thought the man a specter.

"Well, neither have I."

"They're all here in the house, I think."

"What? Here?" Elliott glanced nervously at the circles of lamplight on the ceiling.

"Mmm," Paisley confirmed. She steepled her fingers and assumed a serious expression, or rather, a more serious expression. "I'm going to have a séance to see if I can contact them."

"How many of them are there?" he asked, beginning to recover his look of dismay from earlier in the evening.

Paisley lowered her voice conspiratorially, to keep the spirits from overhearing her schemes.

"There's at least one. That's Phillippe, the man who built the house. I suspect others, too," she added darkly.

When 15-year-old Elliott Graven reluctantly arrives in Sporeville alongside his father, the town's new doctor, he has no idea that the sleepy little village is brimming with thieves, zombie-like sleepwalkers, dangerous mushrooms and an evil professor known as Dr. Strange. Elliott befriends a young girl, Paisley DeLoup, and the two set about peeling back the layers of mystery that shroud the town and hold its folk captive.

     Paul Marlowe's Sporeville has all the elements and feel of a gothic horror novel complete with a bizarre cast of characters consisting of "thieves, madmen and sleepwalkers," not to mention the colourful Reverend Ponsonby and the diabolical Dr. Strange. The main character, 15-year-old Elliott Graven, is likeable, though often appears far too savvy for his age.

     Setting the novel in Nova Scotia in 1886, Marlowe does a solid job of placing his reader in this time period with his use of vocabulary, phrases and details of the era. At times, however, the length at which Marlowe goes to include his research feels contrived. For example:

According to the engraving on the side, the camera was an "Anthony's Patent Novelette View Camera." It consisted of two mahogany boxes connected by a leather bellows, with a lot of brass knobs and screws holding the pieces together. Elliott had often thought he would like to have a camera—a compact one like this—that took photographs on 4x5 inch glass plates. But fifteen dollars was a lot to spend just to take pictures…

Marlowe demonstrates throughout the novel his excellent command of language, extensive vocabulary and clever wit. Particularly humorous is the eel fair scene. Though the plot is certainly not lacking in intrigue, it progresses at an extremely slow pace. Lengthy descriptions and dialogue which, at times, has all the markings of a history lesson, slow the pace dramatically. For example:

"What's that? Here in the fort? Inheritance. After it fell to the English, Phillippe de Quéribus was out of favour with the French. It seems he overspent his allotted funds somewhat. He decided to settle hereabouts. The land was British by then, re-named Nova Scotia. Not Acadia any more. By swearing an oath of loyalty to the British Crown, he was allowed to stay. The fort was abandoned as useless by the English after a few years and de Quéribus bought it for a trifling sum. He died without issue though, in an accident, and for ages the fort was in legal limbo until a few years ago when my solicitor in Halifax happened upon the old records. Turned out my wife was a distant relation with a claim to inherit, so here we are. The rest of the de Quéribus estate was frittered away over the years in solicitors' fees, and on caretakers to look after the property."

     Though Sporeville will not hold the interest of reluctant readers or those expecting a quick pace and action, it will appeal to strong readers with a passion for gothic literature, traditional horror or simply bizarre tales.


Marina Cohen, who has a Master's Degree in French Literature from the University of Toronto, has been teaching in the York Region District School Board for over 12 years.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
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