The Coffins of Little Hope | Book review
A kidnapping and kids’ literature.
One of the earliest viral videos to dominate the workday was shot on the eve of the arrival of the sixth Harry Potter novel. Shot from the driver’s-side window of a car, the video shows the driver quickly accelerating past a Barnes & Noble, where little Slytherins and Gryffindors are waiting in line. Someone in the car shouts, “Dumbledore dies!” and speeds off, leaving behind a flash mob of anger and dismay.
Schaffert, a truly underrated comic novelist, takes full advantage of that fanboy panic in his latest novel. At the foreground is the release of The Coffins of Little Hope, the 11th and final book in a vaunted young-adult fantasy series published under the highest degree of self-serious secrecy the publishing industry can muster. The narrator, Essie Myles, is the obituary writer for the local paper, and her grandson runs the printing press that will run off a portion of the book’s print run. Essie, though, is hardly impressed by the series—she’s in her eighties and barely impressed by anything anymore. But then a young girl named Lenore goes missing, and some question arises as to whether she was ever there to begin with; her mother claims to have had a home birth and homeschooled the girl, though no one’s ever seen her.
With the kidnapping mystery, Schaffert has crafted a fairly complicated plot, though he seems only passingly concerned with it, and the book is all the better for it. The mania is both hilarious (the recluse author requires an exacting environmentally sound printing process that makes the books smell like fresh-cut dandelions crossed with cinnamon rolls) and a colorful backdrop for the mystery. Schaffert is a master at mixing the serious and the absurd.