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The Chessmen of Doom

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In a thrilling adventure, a young sleuth and his professor friend are challenged to solve a riddle and win a fortune   Professor Roderick Childermass may be the strangest person Johnny Dixon has ever met, but compared to his brother Peregrine, the professor is practically normal. Peregrine is a born trickster, and when he knows his death is near, he sends a letter promisin In a thrilling adventure, a young sleuth and his professor friend are challenged to solve a riddle and win a fortune   Professor Roderick Childermass may be the strangest person Johnny Dixon has ever met, but compared to his brother Peregrine, the professor is practically normal. Peregrine is a born trickster, and when he knows his death is near, he sends a letter promising the professor his entire $10,000,000 estate—assuming he can solve one final riddle. The professor feels that his brother is mocking him from beyond the grave. If Peregrine were alive, he says, he’d kill him.   To crack the puzzle and claim the fortune, Johnny and the professor head north to the wild countryside of far-off Maine. They’ll find that the riddle is the least of their problems. To inherit the money, the professor must stay alive until the end of the summer, and since everyone in Maine seems to want Peregrine’s heir dead, survival will be no easy task.   From the author of the Lewis Barnavelt novels, including The House with a Clock in Its Walls, the Johnny Dixon series is full of fun, adventure, and supernatural chills, along with “believable and likable characters” who are a delight to spend time with (The New York Times).


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In a thrilling adventure, a young sleuth and his professor friend are challenged to solve a riddle and win a fortune   Professor Roderick Childermass may be the strangest person Johnny Dixon has ever met, but compared to his brother Peregrine, the professor is practically normal. Peregrine is a born trickster, and when he knows his death is near, he sends a letter promisin In a thrilling adventure, a young sleuth and his professor friend are challenged to solve a riddle and win a fortune   Professor Roderick Childermass may be the strangest person Johnny Dixon has ever met, but compared to his brother Peregrine, the professor is practically normal. Peregrine is a born trickster, and when he knows his death is near, he sends a letter promising the professor his entire $10,000,000 estate—assuming he can solve one final riddle. The professor feels that his brother is mocking him from beyond the grave. If Peregrine were alive, he says, he’d kill him.   To crack the puzzle and claim the fortune, Johnny and the professor head north to the wild countryside of far-off Maine. They’ll find that the riddle is the least of their problems. To inherit the money, the professor must stay alive until the end of the summer, and since everyone in Maine seems to want Peregrine’s heir dead, survival will be no easy task.   From the author of the Lewis Barnavelt novels, including The House with a Clock in Its Walls, the Johnny Dixon series is full of fun, adventure, and supernatural chills, along with “believable and likable characters” who are a delight to spend time with (The New York Times).

30 review for The Chessmen of Doom

  1. 4 out of 5

    Calista

    This book has the magic. It was so good. It is set in Maine at a big mansion in the middle of nowhere. Johnny, the professor and Fergie need to spend the summer at this mansion so the professor can inherit it from his brother. Sounds like a nice summer to everyone. It is not so easy as all that. I love John Bellairs. His writing style is so simple and straight forward. He seems like he was classically trained. He knows latin and the Roman emperor's and this time around Astronomy and Astrology. He This book has the magic. It was so good. It is set in Maine at a big mansion in the middle of nowhere. Johnny, the professor and Fergie need to spend the summer at this mansion so the professor can inherit it from his brother. Sounds like a nice summer to everyone. It is not so easy as all that. I love John Bellairs. His writing style is so simple and straight forward. He seems like he was classically trained. He knows latin and the Roman emperor's and this time around Astronomy and Astrology. He seems to be a treasure trove of knowledge. I like the character of Johnny Dixon. He is not your typical protagonist. He is meek and a little hesitant and afraid, yet he always faces his fears and jumps right into the scary. Things seem to happen to John anyway. These books are fantastic and wonderful little stories of gothic occult for young readers and up. I'm so glad I am finally reading this series. I would love to go back and read these as a kid or when they came out. I hope new generations will continue to give these a read.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kopratic

    This book was good for a quick read, but I don't think it'll be one I think back to very often. I'm just going to do a very quick review: Pros: - atmosphere (spooky and eerie; very good) - pacing (follows a standard "mountain path" plot, but it does so very well) In the Middle: - plot (pretty good for the most part, but some things felt a bit too convenient) - writing (it did the job) Cons: - characters (pretty replaceable and flat for the most part) This book was good for a quick read, but I don't think it'll be one I think back to very often. I'm just going to do a very quick review: Pros: - atmosphere (spooky and eerie; very good) - pacing (follows a standard "mountain path" plot, but it does so very well) In the Middle: - plot (pretty good for the most part, but some things felt a bit too convenient) - writing (it did the job) Cons: - characters (pretty replaceable and flat for the most part)

  3. 4 out of 5

    Summer

    Last book of 2007! John Bellairs's Johnny Dixon books are notable not just for being above-average gothic horror for young folks, but also because older editions have some absolutely terrifying Edward Gorey covers and frontspieces. The stories don't creep me out as much as they did when I was a kid, but of lordy those illustrations. Last book of 2007! John Bellairs's Johnny Dixon books are notable not just for being above-average gothic horror for young folks, but also because older editions have some absolutely terrifying Edward Gorey covers and frontspieces. The stories don't creep me out as much as they did when I was a kid, but of lordy those illustrations.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    This isn't even my very favorite Bellairs, and it's still fab. I think I like the House with a Clock in its Walls, or the one about the secret abandoned railway better, but they are all so enjoyable. Always a great mix of mystery, adventure, and pre-Harry Potter magic. This isn't even my very favorite Bellairs, and it's still fab. I think I like the House with a Clock in its Walls, or the one about the secret abandoned railway better, but they are all so enjoyable. Always a great mix of mystery, adventure, and pre-Harry Potter magic.

  5. 5 out of 5

    ✦BookishlyRichie✦

    One of my favorites from John's work! a perfect summer read. One of my favorites from John's work! a perfect summer read.

  6. 4 out of 5

    She's Stacked (Jo-Anne)

    I had high hopes for this book based on my memories of "A House With A Clock In Its Walls" which I read a few times when I was younger. The elements of witchcraft and demonic activities are still present but the book just wasn't as scary. It had a lot of potential but it was very dismal in its point of view - almost despairing. It felt like it was always on the brink of excitement. I didn't feel as connected to the characters as I had to the characters in "A House With..." I shall have to go bac I had high hopes for this book based on my memories of "A House With A Clock In Its Walls" which I read a few times when I was younger. The elements of witchcraft and demonic activities are still present but the book just wasn't as scary. It had a lot of potential but it was very dismal in its point of view - almost despairing. It felt like it was always on the brink of excitement. I didn't feel as connected to the characters as I had to the characters in "A House With..." I shall have to go back and reread it and see if it is still as exciting or if I have lost my connections with it as a grown up.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Greg Kerestan

    After a slight genre misstep in volume 6, "The Chessmen of Doom" restores the Johnny Dixon series to its oddball gothic glory, complete with necromancy, elaborate tombs and moldering New England architectural follies. To an extent, Bellairs has gotten in over his head here: so many of the rococo details (the tower and statue, the mysterious "communicating tomb" and the observatory) seem to be red herrings or unloaded Chekhov's guns. But in a way, that's part of the charm- the weirdness of the Jo After a slight genre misstep in volume 6, "The Chessmen of Doom" restores the Johnny Dixon series to its oddball gothic glory, complete with necromancy, elaborate tombs and moldering New England architectural follies. To an extent, Bellairs has gotten in over his head here: so many of the rococo details (the tower and statue, the mysterious "communicating tomb" and the observatory) seem to be red herrings or unloaded Chekhov's guns. But in a way, that's part of the charm- the weirdness of the Johnny Dixon universe need not always be plot-forwarding.

  8. 5 out of 5

    PokeyPuppy

    I love John Bellairs, so spooky and silly! Not as good as the Lewis Barnavelt/Rose Rita stories, but still fun!

  9. 4 out of 5

    ✦BookishlyRichie✦

    one of my ultimate faves!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jan Yip

    childhood favorite....I Loved all John Bellairs' books! childhood favorite....I Loved all John Bellairs' books!

  11. 4 out of 5

    ✦BookishlyRichie✦

    Read it when I was younger but re-read it for #JOHNBELLAIRSMONTH. Still as awesome and spooky as before. :)

  12. 4 out of 5

    Alec Hawkins

    If you are reading Bellairs for the occult elements, this entry in the Johnny Dixon series may be the best in that regard. The characters and overall story-arch are the standard for a Bellairs mystery but the atmosphere and danger these characters get into make-up for the minor short comings.

  13. 5 out of 5

    D.

    After the disappointing TROLLEY TO YESTERDAY, this books is a return to form for Bellairs. Instead of the weird slapstick comedy of the previous installment, Johnny, Fergie, and the Professor are back in familiar creepy territory. This time, the boys and the professor have to deal with mysterious happenings in an old estate that was once owned by the professor's brother. As usual, there are mysterious forces at work, and time is running out for our protagonists. While there are several unbelievab After the disappointing TROLLEY TO YESTERDAY, this books is a return to form for Bellairs. Instead of the weird slapstick comedy of the previous installment, Johnny, Fergie, and the Professor are back in familiar creepy territory. This time, the boys and the professor have to deal with mysterious happenings in an old estate that was once owned by the professor's brother. As usual, there are mysterious forces at work, and time is running out for our protagonists. While there are several unbelievable plot twists and coincidences, Bellairs does a nice job of helping readers suspend their disbelief, and the character's actions don't seem as forced as in TIME TROLLEY. There are only two more books that were written entirely by Bellairs, so I'm going to take a little break before I dive into them.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Justin K. Rivers

    One of my favorites, this Johnny/Prof Childermass adventure has some great cliffhangers (including one of my all-time favorites) and some odd, creepy ideas, not least of which is the fantastic setting of a sprawling, run-down estate in Maine. My only complaint here is that, despite some first-rate ingredients, a lot of the plot hinges on coincidences and supposition that seem to fly in from nowhere-land.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sem

    Second time around for this one and even better than I remembered. It's too bad that the publishers saw fit to give my later edition a different cover. Gorey is crucial to the Bellairs experience. Third time: "The earth will be a smoldering ball of rubble...but I will survive as a spirit with heightened consciousness and great power. But why should I spend my time explaining things to morons?" Story of my life. Second time around for this one and even better than I remembered. It's too bad that the publishers saw fit to give my later edition a different cover. Gorey is crucial to the Bellairs experience. Third time: "The earth will be a smoldering ball of rubble...but I will survive as a spirit with heightened consciousness and great power. But why should I spend my time explaining things to morons?" Story of my life.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Heather Jackson

    Not as engaging... I started reading the Johnny Dixon books as a child. I picked them up again recently, including the stories I hadn't read then. This wasn't a bad story, but it was less engaging than the others have been. There was less compelling motivation to solve the mystery and less detail surrounding the story compared to earlier books. It's probably great for the intended audience. Not as engaging... I started reading the Johnny Dixon books as a child. I picked them up again recently, including the stories I hadn't read then. This wasn't a bad story, but it was less engaging than the others have been. There was less compelling motivation to solve the mystery and less detail surrounding the story compared to earlier books. It's probably great for the intended audience.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Kucharski

    Professor Childermass's last brother dies and leaves him a will where he must stay the house for a specific time to get a large inheritance. The interesting thing about this story is that it involves the Professor. The set up and events that take place really move and work the creepy factor well. Luckily the secret messages of ghosts get decoded! Professor Childermass's last brother dies and leaves him a will where he must stay the house for a specific time to get a large inheritance. The interesting thing about this story is that it involves the Professor. The set up and events that take place really move and work the creepy factor well. Luckily the secret messages of ghosts get decoded!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Cupof Tea

    The Lewis Chessmen make an appearance in here. I thought the set-up of this book (the Professor must spend the summer in an old mansion to win his brother's millions in inheritance) had promise, but the follow though was weak. I guess I am used to urban fantasy with a little more explanation as an adult than I did as a child reading this series. The Lewis Chessmen make an appearance in here. I thought the set-up of this book (the Professor must spend the summer in an old mansion to win his brother's millions in inheritance) had promise, but the follow though was weak. I guess I am used to urban fantasy with a little more explanation as an adult than I did as a child reading this series.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Adrienne

    This book series strikes me as the type that childhood readers fondly remember and occasionally reread, but exist as great books only in the realm of nostalgia. This one was a quick, easy read and I probably would have really enjoyed the mystery and magical elements as a kid, but as an adult....eh. It was fine.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Robyn

    Kindle Unlimited | I'm not going to continue with the series. The formula is too obvious, the characters don't grow and take no lessons from previous experiences, but worst is Fergie. He is not Johnny's friend, he's a real jerk, treats Johnny worse even than the Professor, and taunts and intimidates Johnny into dangerous rule-breaking. Holding this kid up as a good friend is too irritating. Kindle Unlimited | I'm not going to continue with the series. The formula is too obvious, the characters don't grow and take no lessons from previous experiences, but worst is Fergie. He is not Johnny's friend, he's a real jerk, treats Johnny worse even than the Professor, and taunts and intimidates Johnny into dangerous rule-breaking. Holding this kid up as a good friend is too irritating.

  21. 4 out of 5

    audrey

    Oh, 12-year-old self. 100 pages of awesome (eccentric WWI vet/professor whose brother leaves him a haunted mansion and a doomsday prophecy) followed by 55 pages of drek (slow pacing, too much Fergie, deus ex machina and bonus misogyny). But those first 100 pages do give good Maine, so there's that. Oh, 12-year-old self. 100 pages of awesome (eccentric WWI vet/professor whose brother leaves him a haunted mansion and a doomsday prophecy) followed by 55 pages of drek (slow pacing, too much Fergie, deus ex machina and bonus misogyny). But those first 100 pages do give good Maine, so there's that.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Kris

    This is one of the better stories in the Johnny Dixon Series. Bellairs didn't call into the standard formula of the previous books: weird things happen, the adults scoff, the kids plunge ahead and the adults rush to catch up. The tension was nicely ratcheted in the last third of the book and while the ultimate solution was a Deus ex Machina, it was reasonably plausible. This is one of the better stories in the Johnny Dixon Series. Bellairs didn't call into the standard formula of the previous books: weird things happen, the adults scoff, the kids plunge ahead and the adults rush to catch up. The tension was nicely ratcheted in the last third of the book and while the ultimate solution was a Deus ex Machina, it was reasonably plausible.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Tanvir

    This is the second book in th Johnny Dixon series and one of the best. I would reccomend this book to everyone who likes mystery. This book has some scary parts which will make you pee i n your pants. This book is cool.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    This is a ridiculous book. It promised to be an interesting puzzle mystery, but ended far outside the bounds of reality. I found myself wishing for the Hardy Boys to turn up and save this mess. Alas, it was not to be.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Marjanne

    This was much better than the last Bellair's/Johnny Dixon book I read. The story was much more interesting, less confusing, and generally better. Good for a quick read. This was much better than the last Bellair's/Johnny Dixon book I read. The story was much more interesting, less confusing, and generally better. Good for a quick read.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Amanda Langdon

    Great Suspense/Thriller for Young Readers

  27. 4 out of 5

    Catherine Mustread

    Grades 5+. Johnny Dixon, Fergie and Prof. Childermass spend the summer at a desolate estate in Maine where they encounter a madman bent on destroying the world.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jean

    i have read every single one of them, childhood favorites but this is the best one!! still re-read them

  29. 4 out of 5

    Portobellord

    Bellairs is such a great writer for kids. The perfect mix of magic and adventure. They hold up well rereading as an adult.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

    Back on track with gothic horror after the hard-to-get-through Trolley to Yesterday, a welcome return to the Johnny Dixon of old. One more original Bellairs to go...

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