Pamela Rushby, The Mummy Smugglers of Crumblin Castle, Walker Books Australia, July 2020, 336 pp., RRP $17.99 (pbk), ISBN 9781760651930
Hattie is a 12-year-old orphan stuck in a boarding school she hates when her guardian is eaten by a crocodile. As a result, she is sent to relatives she never knew she had: Great-uncle Sisyphus and Great-aunt Iphigenia
Right away, Pamela Rushby will make readers understand and sympathise with Hattie. Her enviable talent of imbuing her writing with effortless humour ensures her portrayal of Hattie as a mix of older smarts with a 12-year-old’s point of view will make readers adore her.
Crumblin Castle certainly lives up to its name when Hattie arrives, but it is also intriguing to her natural curiosity. Even more so, when she is greeted by a cat that is more human than cat sometimes, and discovers that her Great-Aunt is an Egyptologist that has Mummy Unwrapping parties to keep the castle from crumbling entirely — and they are incredibly popular.
Rushby takes her time setting up Hattie’s new life in Crumblin Castle, her relationship with her great aunt and uncle, and their assistants – Edgar and Edwina Raven. Even as it is incredibly fun seeing Hattie’s life in Crumblin Castle and her relationship with her Great-Aunt and Uncle develop, there is a sense of expectation and readers know something is going to happen, and that something is not quite right.
When her Great-Aunt discovers there are no more mummies to be unwrapped in England, everyone goes to Egypt to find more (despite it now being illegal), and there begins an entirely different sort of adventure for Hattie and readers. Hattie loves history and everything about it interests her, so going to Egypt takes her away from Maths, much to her relief.
These chapters of the book are filled with interesting historical details and it’s genuinely fun to get lost in them, and to observe Hattie start to question if they are doing the right thing by trying to find mummies to unwrap.
However, this is where I realised that the pacing of the book could be problematic for readers: there was in the beginning a sense of expectation about the Ravens, about what they were up to but as the book took the characters to Egypt, I began to wonder if the plot of this book might be more palatable to some readers in two books.
Despite some pacing issues, I think The Mummy Smugglers of Crumblin Castle is an entertaining book, accompanied by equally entertaining illustrations.
Reviewed by Verushka Byrow