John Bellairs's Johnny Dixon in The Bell, the Book, and the Spellbinder

Brad Strickland

Dial Books for Young Readers. $14.99

What, Fergie wonders, is the last book in the library? Hidden on the last shelf, he finds The Book of True Wishes, by Jarmyn Thanatos. Most interestingly, the book is about a boy named Fergie.

So begins a strange curse, one that involves the silent tolling of an invisible bell and a living, mummified mouse more than seventy years old.

Fergie tries a wish or two which turn out wrong, but whenever he decides to put the book away, old Mr. Thanatos urges him on in ever more sinister directions. And that bell he hears every time he even thinks about the book --! Fergie begins to wonder if he is going mad.

His friends Johnny Dixon and Professor Childermass are worried, too, because Fergie is acting very strangely of late. Besides, a little research shows that Jarmyn Thanatos has an evil reputation going back well over a hundred years. Fergie is in terrible danger, and to save him Johnny and the Professor must figure out how to break the Spellbinder's spell!

The Bell, the Book, and the Spellbinder is the second original book Brad Strickland has written using characters created by the late John Bellairs. Strickland once again proves himself to be an excellent heir.

The differences in what Bellairs might have done and what Strickland has chosen to do are subtle, and speculation is a futile game of second guessing at best. Personally, I don't believe Bellairs would have created Johnny's new friend Sarah, or at least not for the Johnny Dixon books; but Strickland has added her (she first appeared in The Hand of the Necromancer), and she seems to work. Her role in the current book is more subdued, and her friendship with Fergie an appropriately cool one.

As for writing style, Strickland mimicks Bellairs so perfectly, both strengths and weakneses, that if I didn't know already this was not Bellairs, I probably would not guess. That mouse mummy is one creepy little item!

Johnny Dixon last appeared in The Hand of the Necromancer, written by Strickland. Strickland also completed four other novels, including The Doom of the Haunted Opera, from notes that Bellairs had left.


Also starring Johnny Dixon, by John Bellairs:

The Curse of the Blue Figurine. Dial Books, 1983
The Mummy, the Will, and the Crypt. Dial Books, 1983
The Spell of the Sorcerer's Skull. Dial Books, 1984
The Revenge of the Wizard's Ghost. Dial Books, 1985
The Eyes of the Killer Robot. Dial Books, 1986
The Chessmen of Doom. Dial Books, 1989
The Trolley to Yesterday. Dial Books, 1989
The Secret of the Underground Room. Dial Books, 1990

And completed by Brad Strickland:

The Drum, the Doll, and the Zombie. Dial Books, 1994

And written by Brad Strickland:

The Hand of the Necromancer. Dial Books, 1996
The Bell, the Book, and the Spellbinder. Dial Books, 1997
The Wrath of the Grinning Ghost. Dial Books, 1999


This review copyright 1997 by Wendy Morris
Information last updated June 20, 2000

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