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And you thought your family was strange.
I am dying. . . I might get the chance to know you before death takes me...I would like you to be my guest at Sommerset. . .I have enclosed a c...
And you thought your family was strange.
I am dying. . . I might get the chance to know you before death takes me...I would like you to be my guest at Sommerset. . .I have enclosed a check for $ 10,000. . . Should you accept my offer...
Uncle Silas has always been greedy, evil, insulting, and extremely rich! But a dying uncle with a vast fortune is definitely one worth getting to know. Even if it means spending 2 months on his secluded island home with a houseful of suspicious servants and a hungry pet crocodile.
But what is Uncle Silas really up to? Will Adele, Milo, and Isabella outlive Uncle Silas to inherit his money? And just who is that mysterious "guest" in his basement? Is it worth the money (or their lives) to stick around and find out?
About the Author
Stephen M. Giles lives near the beach in Sydney, Australia. He describes himself as a market researcher of staggering mediocrity, but these days he spends most of his time wandering around his imagination—which is where he met the Winterbottoms.
Table of Contents
Adele Fester-Winterbottom Gets Mail 1
Opportunity Knocks 12
The Master of Sommerset 29
The First Arrival 38
Planting Seeds 47
The Reluctant Guest 52
Under One Roof 61
The Uninvited Guest 66
The Truth 77
I Spy 101
The Night of Comings and Goings 120
The Tables Turn 147
Midnight Caller 155
The Way Down 169
The Departed 179
The Soul Chamber 192
A Death in the Family 201
The Last Will and Testament of Silas Winterbottom 211
About the Author 227
From Chapter One: Adele Fester-Winterbottom Gets Mail
Washington, a stocky black bulldog, was licking at the saucer of milk and purring softly when Mr. Walter Fester entered the kitchen mu...
From Chapter One: Adele Fester-Winterbottom Gets Mail
Washington, a stocky black bulldog, was licking at the saucer of milk and purring softly when Mr. Walter Fester entered the kitchen muttering to himself about the outrageous price of eggs. Washington, through no fault of his own, was a dog who firmly believed that he was a cat.
“How’s a person meant to enjoy his morning eggs when they’ve cost him an extra fifteen cents on the dozen,” said Mr. Walter Fester irritably. “You’d think we were made of money. I shall write to the newspaper about this. Oh, before I forget,” said Mr. Fester, putting on a bright yellow apron, “this came for you.”
He handed his daughter an envelope. It was royal blue with a thin silver band along the border. As letters went, it looked rather important.
“For me?” said Adele curiously.
Her mother looked up from the pages of her scientific journal. “For her?” She narrowed her unnaturally large eyes. “Who on earth would send Adele a letter?”
Who indeed? Adele examined the envelope in her hands. It was addressed as follows:
Miss Adele Fester-Winterbottom
399 Possum Avenue,
On the other side, pressed into the seal of the envelope, was an engraved crest—it featured a set of ornate gates entwined with the vines of a rosebush. Etched across the crest was the word Sommerset.
Something about the letter made her feel nervous and excited all at once. She thought about letting her father read it for her, but Mr. Fester was busy enough scrambling eggs and shuffling through the sizable mountain of unpaid bills and final notices on the kitchen counter.
Back in Scotland, before everything had gone so horribly wrong, Mr. Fester had been a respected book restorer with an international reputation. It was a passion Adele had shared with her father, but now the business was long gone and there were very few books sent his way anymore.
You are probably wondering exactly what disaster befell the family to cause their complete financial ruin.
For the answer, look no further than the scrawny woman with the irritable expression and the wild mop of charcoal-colored hair sitting at the far end of the table. Adele’s mother, Professor Prudence Fester-Winterbottom, was a deeply unpleasant woman with sour breath. She was also something of a genius and her specialty was animal behavior. Her groundbreaking research at MacDougall University in Edinburgh was acclaimed worldwide and over the years her reputation and public standing flourished, much to her delight.
Unfortunately, the only thing the professor craved more than glory was money. Prudence had spent a lifetime envying her older brother Silas Winterbottom and his massive fortune. So when, during an experiment into the physiology of birds, she discovered a way to dramatically alter the physical appearance of a common tree sparrow, a rather diabolical idea began to form in her mind.
The professor realized that by putting the tree sparrow through a series of rather painful and highly unethical operations she could give it the appearance of a wallop lark—the rarest bird on the face of the earth and the most valuable. Each feathered impostor could be sold for a small fortune.
She would be rich!
In a remote basement laboratory in the bowels of the university, the professor and her assistant Paul gathered a test group of twelve tree sparrows and began their highly unethical operation in earnest. They worked late at night to avoid detection and in no time at all had successfully created the first batch of mutant wallop larks. The professor arranged for a rather lucrative sale through a friend of Paul’s who knew several notorious bird smugglers. The profit on the first dozen alone would be in excess of one hundred thousand dollars!
However, as the days passed, the birds began to exhibit rather violent tendencies not typically associated with the peaceful wallop lark. Their beaks and claws grew rapidly, sharp as razor blades, and soon all twelve birds had to be separated for fear that they would devour one another, so insatiable were their appetites.
Fearing that worst, Paul begged the professor to abandon the project and destroy the birds, but she refused, unwilling to turn her back on all of that beautiful money.
On the day of the sale, Professor Fester-Winterbottom arrived early at the university to check up on Paul, who had been working throughout the night to prepare the birds for transportation. When the professor entered the basement laboratory she made a discovery so horrific, it snatched all the strength from her legs, sending her plummeting to the ground. Paul’s body lay sprawled on the floor, largely hidden beneath the swarm of rabid wallop larks devouring his flesh. With ruthless efficiency they were eating him piece by piece, stripping the bones clean.
The birds had used their powerful beaks to chew through the locks on the cages. They had waited patiently until Paul’s back was turned before striking. He did not stand a chance against their savage hunger.
Unable to conceal the horror of what she had done, the professor was forced to confess everything to the university. The press jumped on the sensational story. Headlines screamed, Birdbrained Professor Creates Killer Sparrows!
Not surprisingly, the university was sued by Paul’s grief-stricken family. In turn the university sued the professor for every penny she was worth and then some. Desperate to bury the scandal, the university convinced Scotland Yard not to pursue the case, and the investigation was quietly closed.
Not that it mattered. The professor’s reputation was utterly destroyed.
Broke and desperate, Adele and her parents fled Scotland and sought refuge in the only place that would have them—Tipping Point, Tasmania.
Pushing those dark memories from her mind, Adele reached down and patted Washington on the head; the bulldog purred gratefully. Washington was an unfortunate victim of an early experiment carried out by the professor. She was convinced that she could reprogram a domesticated dog, replacing its canine instincts with those of a cat. While the experiment had been a triumph (Washington was completely transformed, purring and meowing like a lifelong fluff-ball) it quickly became apparent that the professor was unable to reverse the effects, thus condemning the stocky bulldog to life as a cat.
Adele looked again at the envelope in her hand. She felt a ripple of excitement. Who had written to her? With some care, she broke the seal and read the letter.
This letter may come as something of a surprise as we have never met. Time, however, is not on my side, so allow me to get straight to the point. I am dying and it is my wish that I might get the chance to know you, at least a little, before death takes me. I would like you to be my guest at Sommerset for two months beginning in June. I have enclosed a check for $10,000 to cover the necessary travel arrangements and additional expenses. Should you accept my offer, I will expect you no later than June 1.
If the answer is no, I shall not trouble you again. The money is yours to spend in any way you wish.
““Comically dark, but never too scary, The Death (and Further Adventures) of Silas Winterbottom is perfect for the tween who likes a bit of thrill in their reading.” - Sacramento Boo...
““Comically dark, but never too scary, The Death (and Further Adventures) of Silas Winterbottom is perfect for the tween who likes a bit of thrill in their reading.” - Sacramento Book Review” - Sacramento Book Review
““It is sinister to the core. Silas Winterbottom is the most despicable, dastardly character. It's wicked humor at its best… It's just the right amount of edginess and humor that makes this story perfect.”
” - Octavia Books
““Will Milo and his cousins survive a trip to Sommerset house? Fans of Unfortunate Events Series will love this story. It is Dastardly!”
” - Browsing Bison Books
“"I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the Winterbottoms! It's a perfect fit for fans of Lemony Snicket or the work John Belairs."
” - Schuler Books & Music
““Throw in trained alligators and a villain that revels in his villainy and you’ve got yourself a book that is fun. Fun is worthy. Fun is sometimes hard to find in children’s literature. Fun is what it is, and no one can argue against it. This book has it… Silas is one of the most perfect little Gothic children’s novels to come down the pike. It’s right up there with The Wolves of Willoughby Chase and others of that ilk… This book is just the right combination of darkness and fun.” – Betsy Bird, Fuse #8” - School Library Journal
“” - Michelle & Leslie’s Book Picks
“Readers who relish the sort of tale that features hidden passages, oddball relatives, mad scientists, veiled or not-so veiled threats, frequent deadly “accidents,” and the occasional crocodile attack will enjoy the ride—and may well be pleased that bad-to-the-bone Silas, who is the most vivid character here, plainly has a role to play in future episodes despite being reduced to a pile of dust at the end” - Booklist
““This is a refreshing, well-written book with fleshed-out characters that will have you laughing out loud one minute and marveling at how realistic they are the next. The writing is fresh, funny and perfectly-paced, and each character's "voice" is wonderfully authentic.”” - YA Bookscentral
“” - Ms. Yingling Reads
“” - Smitten With Books
““This is a wickedly funny story… If you love clever fiction, get a copy of this incredibly fun book and follow along on their adventures.”” - The Long and Short of It
“” - Literary Cravings
““I absolutely adored The Death (and Further Adventures) of Silas Winterbottom The Body Thief. Each of the characters in the story was amazing… A non-stop page turner. Quite literally, I devoured the entire book in one evening.”” - Theresabook.com
“” - Bellas Novela
““A highly enjoyable tale. The characters were well developed and the plot twists kept me very well entertained. For a middle grade read, this one has become one of my favorites. Definitely something I'll keep around and recommend to my daughter as soon as she's old enough to read it.”” - Red House Books
““The Death (and Further Adventures) of Silas Winterbottom is a sinister and hilarious read, which delights in its own wickedness. It’s a perfect read for Halloween. Well-written and just the right blend of dark humor and camp, it’s great for adults and kids.”” - Bri Meets Books
““The Death and Further Adventures of Silas Winterbottom is a fast, engrossing read… Hand this to a middle grader who likes mysteries and suspense with a just a little peek at danger.”” - The Brain Lair
““As soon as I discovered, in the opening pages of the book, that Washington, Adele’s bulldog was the victim of an experiment that left him believing he’s a cat, I knew I was in for a treat with The Death and Further Adventures of Silas Winterbottom.”” - Writing from the Tub
“After years of estrangement from his family, the aging Silas Winterbottom seeks to make amends for his past transgressions by inviting his young nieces and nephew to his home in the hopes of selecting an heir for his massive fortune—or at least that is what he would have Adele, Isabella, and Milo believe. The truth is far more sinister, and the children are in mortal danger of losing their souls the minute they step on the Sommerset estate. They are also, however, Winterbottoms; as such, all three kids have ulterior motives for being there, and they are clever enough to see right through their uncle’s kind exterior—now they only have to figure out how to stop him. Secret passageways, scheming relatives, and grumpy ’gators abound in this darkly funny series opener. The Winterbottoms would no doubt give Lemony Snicket’s Count Olaf a run for his money, and although Milo and Adele lack Isabella’s peculiar charisma, this family puts the fun—if you consider body snatching and spending an inordinate amount of time planning your sibling’s death fun—into dysfunctional. The three children all have their own quirky attributes, and young readers will especially love to hate the spoiled and bratty Isabella. The lively pace makes this an attention-keeping readaloud choice (particularly around Halloween); although the ultimate outcome may not be a surprise, getting there is a journey listeners might want to repeat, so be prepared for multiple readings. KQG
” - The Bulletin for the Center of Children’s Books
“Stephen M. Giles, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, $12.99 (240p) ISBN 978-1-4022-4090-4
Giles makes it clear from the outset of this launch to the Death (and Further Adventures) of Silas Winterbottom series that the Winterbottom clan has faced some unfortunate events. A family tree that opens the book reveals that one ancestor was trampled by an elephant; two were killed by a volcano. In newcomer Giles’s capable hands, the surviving Winterbottoms are a delightfully dysfunctional bunch. Silas, a dying old man with a menacing pet crocodile, has summoned two nieces and a nephew to his mansion in a swamp, promising he’ll select one to inherit the estate. The Mr. Burnsian elder’s interactions with his would-be heirs and the dynamics among the kids are quite funny, particularly the machinations of uppity, greedy Isabella, who convinces unassuming Adele that she wants her to inherit the wealth, while doing her best to doom that innocent’s chances. The nasty and convoluted plans Silas has for all three are revealed in a fast-paced denouement. Giles delivers even the macabre twists of the tale with a light touch, giving readers plenty of incentive to stick with the series. Ages 9–12. (Aug.) ” - Publishers Weekly
“This entertaining mystery is suspenseful, sometimes a little icky, funny and rife with twists, fake saves and eccentric characters—good old-fashioned gothic adventure meets Agatha Christie for middle readers. (family tree) (Mystery. 8-14) ” - Kirkus
Length: 8 in
Width: 5.5 in
Weight: 0.00 oz
Page Count: 240 pages