by Will Hill
Review by Gayle Surrette
Razorbill Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781595144065
Date: 01 April 2011 List Price $17.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Jamie Carpenter's life hasn't been the same since the night his father killed himself in their driveway. Jamie often thinks of that night because he'd been there. He'd seen the shadows or something moving in the tree in the front yard, a girl with red eyes and evil grin, and his father putting the gun to his head. Then there was the accusation that his father was a traitor so he and his mother have had to move from place to place to outrun the rumors and the hatred that has been targeted at them.
Jamie is our point-of-view character and we spend a lot of time seeing the world filtered through his perceptions. He's a typical teenager who has had his stable world turned upside down. But one night two years after his father's death, he comes home to find his mother being kidnapped by a monster. Jamie himself is saved by Frankenstein. Now his world is really out of control and stranger than he ever believed it could be, and his one goal is to find and save his mother.
Hill writes clearly and keeps the action moving constantly even though there are times when Jamie is given information or ruminating on what he's heard or learned. Everyone has written off his father as a traitor but they're still honoring their promise made to his father to protect Jamie and his mother. No one believes his mother will live for long and sees her as expendable. Fortunately, Jamie doesn't feel the same way and he's pushing buttons on his elders to get them to help him find her.
Interestingly, Hill manages to make the background of the secret organization that Jamie's father worked for have a history and layers of political maneuvering that add some verisimilitude to what would otherwise be a very unbelievable premise. Because of the weight of the information, a reader can readily drop into the story and stay there.
This book appears to be the beginning of a new series and it certainly has enough material and enough hanging threads at the end of this one to spin off a few new books. Department Nineteen is an interesting coming of age novel that's filled with adventure, incidents, and puzzles to be solved. The main puzzle now is what will Jamie do next.