2012: 8. The Tattooed Potato and other clues

"A lonely figure stood in Cobble Lane, studying the red-brick house number 12."

The Tattooed Potato and other clues, Ellen Raskin

Ellen Raskin certainly was an interesting writer.  She wrote so few books (well, chapter books - I guess she wrote some picture books, but I haven't read them), and while they all have certain things in common - i.e., I would classify them all as mysteries - tonally, they are just as varied as possible.  The Westing Game is a classic locked room/puzzle mystery, Leon (I Mean Noel) is a humorous puzzle, Figgs & Phantoms is a metaphysical mystery, and The Tattooed Potato is a mystery, but one that takes on the real emotions caused by crime, too.  By which I mean, I guess, that it's a mystery, but one in which the characters seem to be real people with real human emotions.  We enjoy solving the silly crimes with Garson and Dickory Dock, but at the end, we are left with real people who have been victims of real crimes.    Her oeuvre is strange for someone who wrote YA - it's hard to imagine a book like Figgs or Potato being marked to young readers today, but thank god for the strange 70's because I love these books.

Now, in case you haven't read these, the plot is as follows.  Dickory Dock (and yes, she's heard all the jokes) is an art student who takes on a job as an assistant working for a slick portrait painter named Garson.  Garson becomes an advisor to the police (starting as a sketch artist), and the two solve strange mysteries together (the case of the bald hairdressor, the case of the phony twenty dollar bill).  Meanwhile, strange things are going on at Garson's house - what is Dickory to think about her strange employer?  

And it's great.  When I first read this, when I was younger, I thought it was bizarre (see my comment on the strange 70's) but now I love it - love Dickory, love Garson, love poor doomed Isaac.  A great book.

Categories:  Re-read, YA

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017