In this gothic-ish tale, two children spend an idyllic summer on a little island in British Columbia. Christie is a city child sent to the island to get some fresh air; Barnaby is waiting on the island until his uncle comes to take charge of him. Barnaby is also heir to a $10 million fortune.
The island is a child’s paradise, with its mountains and fields and forests and beaches. The animals are wild yet friendly, even the legendary mankilling cougar, One-Ear, “three hundred pounds of pain-ridden, steel-muscled, hate-filled beige murder.” When the children are tired, they sleep in cozy beds, and when they’re hungry, there are berries and apples outside and inside there are lovely big breakfasts with eggs and ham and jam and fresh-baked bread (American readers will be reminded of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House of the Prairie books). The adults are uniformly pleasant, except for the few meanies who exist to be teased by high-spirited children. There’s even a heroic Mountie!
Into this paradise comes Satan, otherwise known as Barnaby’s uncle. Barnaby knows that his uncle is wicked, and that his uncle will murder him. So he and Christie make a pact; they’ll murder Uncle first. How they go about it—and how wicked Uncle tries to thwart them—makes up the rest of the book. It’s a real tale of good and evil, with the mischievous yet fundamentally good children pitted against Uncle, who is pure murder and who may very well be a werewolf.
Reading Let’s Kill Uncle, I didn’t realize how strong the British influence was on Canada, even into the 1960s. The island is a child’s paradise because all the young men have died in the two world wars, and the women and children have left for the cities. Sergeant Coulter, the stalwart Mountie, was an enlistee and a prisoner of war, and Uncle is an officer from a British public school background. Colonial good vs the motherland’s evil?
The original, hardback edition of Let’s Kill Uncle had illustrations by Edward Gorey, which of course aren’t in the ebook. I am tempted to buy a copy just to see what the illustrations are like!
I was inspired to read this by Books I’ve Read‘s review. Thanks, Jenny!