Continuing on with my Diana Wynne Jones phase, but having put aside the Dalemark series, of which I read the first and began the second only to find them all a bit gloomy, I've just finished Archer's Goon. This is a neatly plotted story with a major red herring running through it for about the first two-thirds. It also has a superb character in the concisely-spoken Goon. It's hard to convey the way he speaks in an extract, so I'm not going to try. Suffice to say he's one of Wynne Jones' more delightful and quirky creations.
The Sykes are a fairly straightforward family into which the Goon suddenly interposes himself, his long legs seeming to take up most of the kitchen where he insists on sitting until Quentin (the family father) produces his 'two thousand'. The two thousand aren't pounds or dollars, but words, and why they've been requested is a mystery that takes most of the book to solve. Quentin's been producing them every few months after a bout of writer's block several years ago, but the words have nothing to do with writer's block.
The other members of the family are Howard, who seems a straightforward boy on the surface but is anything but, as we eventually discover; Awful, his sister, nicknamed thus because of her propensity to scream very loudly when anything upsets her, and a young layd with an enjoyment of nastiness; and Catriona, the mother, who is the only one initially who can put the Goon in his place. There's also Fifi, the student who's staying with them. Fifi's role in the story seems minor at first, but she's the catalyst for some rather serious stuff later.
When I say 'serious' however, it's not to imply that this is a serious book. It's as good-humoured and witty as Howl's Flying Castle, though equally full of strange and scary people. Wynne Jones obviously had a thoroughly enjoyable time writing this book, and it shows through on every page. (She doesn't seem to have had quite so enjoyable a time in working with a scriptwriter on the television version, but admitted that scriptwriting is not her field. There's a very detailed writing-up of the television series which points out its high and low points - and gives away all the plot. Don't read it before you've read the book.)