Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy (3 out of 5 stars)
If nothing else, I really liked the names characters gave themselves in the book. Skulduggery Pleasant just rolls off the tongue. It's no surprise to learn that he chose the name for himself. The title character, though not the main protagonist, is a skeleton detective with magical powers a great deal of dry wit. His quest to uncover a mystery surrounding an old friend's death leads him to take in the man's niece Stephanie as a partner, bringing her into the world of magic unseen to the rest of the world.
It's not particularly original, though some of the ideas are applied in amusing ways, what sets the book apart is the relentless series of action sequences and the cynical humor of the main characters. It's a fun book, and a good selection for reluctant readers as well.
Thomas Hammond's mom, widowed when Theodore Hammond is killed in a plane wreck, is considering the marriage proposal and Thomas is not happy. It's easy to see why, the man is basically a flake. One night after a bitter fight, he finds himself on a trip down the river on a raft of packing foam. Swept underground and presumed dead, the story follows not only Thomas discovery of his dad's true fate and few ancient civilizations along the way, but a deadly conspiracy of treasure hunters seeking after Mrs. Hammond's hand in marriage, taking a role similar to that of the evil suitors of the Odyssey.
There's a number of classic stories that seem to have an influence here, Tom Sawyer, Robinson Crusoe, among others. Wilson applies his personal taste though.
If there's a weakness, it might be that some kids will get lost in the details, but I suspect many will find the in depth descriptions of a how to build a water clock in an underground cavern, for instance, quite intriguing