"Clever, intelligent, and completely entertaining. Read it!"
"A Hitch at the Fairmont is terrific...a fun plot, wonderful characters, belly-laugh humor, and lots of truly lovely writing."
Gr 5–8—In 1956 at the fabulous San Francisco Fairmont Hotel, 11-year-old Jack teams up with the famous movie director Alfred Hitchcock to uncover a plot involving drugged chocolates, mistaken identities, kidnapping, disguises, and close escapes. References to actual Hitchcock films and anecdotes abound throughout, in chapter headings, settings, and focused descriptions reminiscent of camera pan-ins. At one point, Averbeck even goes so far as to have the clever Jack create a scene in which Hitchcock makes a sort-of cameo appearance in costume, just as the real Hitchcock used to do in his films. Each chapter begins with a short storyboard of upcoming scenes. Although few of the intended readers for this book will have prior knowledge of the milieu, the pacing and length of scenes are right out of a 1950s Hitchcock film: slow and lingering on set pieces and build-up, broken with quick and cinematic action sequences. The back matter introduces many of the author's favorite Hitchcock films, as well as information about the real man and the real Fairmont Hotel. This is a fantastic introduction to the great filmmaker and to a 1950s sensibility of childhood and Hollywood. Unfortunately, its very nature as a long and slowly unravelling historical mystery will likely deter any but the most open-minded readers: try this with the Blue Balliett or Trenton Lee Stewart fan set.—Rhona Campbell, Georgetown Day School, Washington, DC
A troubled preteen and a famous director team up to solve a mystery at the renowned Fairmont Hotel. Jack Fair's in trouble. The evil aunt that took him in after his darling mother's passing has gone missing, leaving behind only a ransom note and a pesky chinchilla. Jack happens to live in the lavish Fairmont Hotel, and the guest across the hall that offers to help Jack with his trouble is none other than the distinguished moviemaker Alfred Hitchcock. With few clues and little time, the odd couple reluctantly goes about finding Aunt Edith before it's too late. The mystery is well-laid-out, with all the clues and red herrings in the right places. Averbeck shows off his knowledge of Hitchcock-iana, but the endeavor feels somewhat exploitative when it comes to involving the man who inspired the caper. Young readers who don't know or care about Hitch won't be bothered, but cinéastes may ruffle at the thought of the master of suspense donning silly disguises and dressing in drag. Regardless, the author is smart enough not to overdose on cute nods to the auteur's filmography, opting instead for macabre twists that wouldn't be out of place in a Dahl book. An author's note discusses the Hitchcock phenomenon, and an appendix provides a gloss on all the films used as chapter titles.A fine read and a decent love letter to all that Hitchcock stood for. (Mystery. 8-14)