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The Swifts : a dictionary of scoundrels
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Back in the old tights-­and-­doublets days of the Swift family, every child had been named either Mary or John. It got terribly confusing at dinnertime when someone asked a John to pass the potatoes and ten hands shot out at once, and so Mary Swift XXXV had begun the tradition of naming her children using the Family Dictionary. The idea stuck, and the Swifts prospered. People often overlook a Mary or a John, but they seldom forget a person named Meretricious or Flinch. ­Shenanigan couldn't remember the day she was born, but she could picture it very well: the hospital room, the nurses, her mother, tired and smiling as ­Shenanigan's father fussed over her pillows. She pictured herself too, wrapped up like a little peanut with a shock of disobedient hair already erupting out of her head. She pictured the Dictionary--and this part was easier, because she was looking at it--­an ancient, leather-­bound monster of a book, bursting its bindings with pages of calfskin and parchment and paper, with entries in crisp modern fonts, wonky typewritten letters, and hand­scrawled script with long S 's that looked like F 's. The Dictionary would have been brought in, set on the bed (­Shenanigan pictured the nurses' noses wrinkling in distaste), and opened at random by ­Shenanigan's mother. Her eyes would have been closed. She would have run her finger down the page and stopped on the word and definition that would become her child's name. ­Shenanigan could picture this so well because every Swift's first day began in exactly the same way. . Excerpted from The Swifts: A Dictionary of Scoundrels by Beth Lincoln All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.
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Publishers Weekly Review
A gothic novel of corrosive values that's centered around a family reunion, Lincoln's manor-set murder mystery maintains a Knives Out feel by way of Lemony Snicket. As the story opens, scores of relatives are poised to descend upon Swift House for the event, which is also a family-wide hunt for the treasure hoard that Grand-Uncle Vile once secreted on the estate. Named fatefully from the Family Dictionary, dauntless 13-year-old Shenanigan longs to find the treasure, and keeps a list of the idiosyncratic home's possible hiding places, including suspicious paintings. She dreads the family gathering, but when an attempt is made on Arch-Aunt Schadenfreude's life, Shenanigan, frustrated with her adult relations' inadequate sleuthing, enlists the help of sister Phenomena and nonbinary cousin Erf. The initially whimsical story takes a darker tone as murders ensue and the family begins to close ranks, but crackling puns outpace the body count as this archly told, never muddled debut whodunit reveals a roster of distinct characters, a labyrinthine setting and plot, and a mystery that is as clever and impish as its heroine. The family's members have varying skin tones. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 8--12. Agent: Zoë Plant, Bent Agency. (Feb.)
Booklist Review
Taking the classic manor house whodunit for a wild ride, Lincoln mixes hidden rooms and agendas, a sprawling family with unusual naming practices, gender identity discoveries, high comedy and low punning, murder, and more, then stirs briskly. Raffish young Shenanigan Swift is sure she can find an ancestor's long-hidden treasure. But her search is derailed as the rare but regular gathering of her far-flung clan at ramshackle Swift House leads to a series of macabre murders and murder attempts that only she and STEM-oriented sister Phenomena, fashion-obsessed older sib Felicity, and newly met nonbinary cousin Erf seem to be set on investigating. While clues, suspects, and terrific set pieces (including a Scrabble "duel to the death" that turns out exactly as advertised) pile up, the author not only pitches her young investigators into situations both life-threatening and comical, but pulls in a large supporting cast--memorable for more than just their monikers--for perceptive explorations of family ties, pressures, and responsibilities. In the wake of introductory authorial comments about the vagaries of language, readers will also get plenty of food for thought in the ways that family matriarch Schadenfreude Swift's seemingly repressive observation that "you can't help your name" takes on liberating nuances for Shenanigan as well as her sibs and other relatives. In finest genre tradition, the suspenseful denouement is positively writhing with twists. Finished art not seen.
Horn Book Review
When the large extended Swift family gathers at the ancestral home for their regular reunion, they hunt, as they always do, for the long-hidden family treasure. This time, however, there is a murderer in their midst and the bodies start accumulating. Who is killing off Swifts and why? Playing with the tropes of the classic mid-century isolated country house detective novel, Lincoln whips up a witty confection of highly colorful characters (Arch-Aunt Schadenfreude, twins Flora and Fauna), dynamic wordplay, and a plot dense with action, suspense, double-dealing, innovative murder weapons, and a well-orchestrated eleventh-hour reveal. (Not to give anything away, but beware a punster.) Our window on this world is the observant, energetic Shenanigan Swift, a charmingly flawed middle-grader eager to solve the crimes while making sense of family, relationships, and adult life. Fans of Marthe Jocelyn's Aggie Morton mysteries and Polly Horvath's gothic fiction will feel right at home in this inventive, exuberant world. A bonus in this American edition of a British import is a lively introductory essay on dictionaries and the evolution of English that could well inspire a budding lexicographer. Sarah EllisJanuary/February 2023 p.86 (c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Kirkus Review
A treasure hunt and murder mystery with a family that's rather eccentric (adjective: zany, whimsical, oddball). Shenanigan Swift, like the rest of the Swift family, is destined to grow up like the name randomly chosen for her from the dictionary. When the family converges for a reunion and treasure hunt, Shenanigan meets most of her relatives for the first time. Used to primarily interacting with her overbearing sisters, Phenomena and Felicity, she's fascinated by her rude, more-than-slightly criminal cousins. Cousin Erf, who is nonbinary and recently decided to choose their own preferred name, prompts Shenanigan to wonder if she must be a troublemaker just because the dictionary said so. Amid the chaos of family and Shenanigan's quest for hidden treasure, Arch-Aunt Schadenfreude, the matriarch of the Swift clan, is murdered. The sisters, aided by Phenomena's Junior Forensics Kit and a chalkboard where they plot and record data, might be able to solve the mystery, but first they have to stop fighting with one another. The narrative voice includes jokes and viewpoints that will be appreciated by sophisticated younger readers as well as those who are older than Shenanigan; overall, the humor and action are spot-on for middle-grade audiences. The members of the British Swift family have a variety of skin tones, and several characters are LGBTQ+. Final art not seen. An absolutely delightful debut with heartwarming character growth and a clever, genre-savvy country-house mystery. (author's note) (Mystery. 10-13) Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Instant New York Times Bestseller!

" Knives Out feel by way of Lemony Snicket...This archly told, never muddled debut whodunit reveals a roster of distinct characters, a labyrinthine setting and plot, and a mystery that is as clever as its heroine." - Publishers Weekly , starred review

"The suspenseful denouement is positively writhing with twists." -- Booklist , starred review

On the day they are born, every Swift child is brought before the sacred Family Dictionary. They are given a name, and a definition. A definition it is assumed they will grow up to match.
Meet Shenanigan Swift: Little sister. Risk-taker. Mischief-maker.

Shenanigan is getting ready for the big Swift Family Reunion and plotting her next great scheme: hunting for Grand-Uncle Vile's long-lost treasure. She's excited to finally meet her arriving relatives--until one of them gives Arch-Aunt Schadenfreude a deadly shove down the stairs.

So what if everyone thinks she'll never be more than a troublemaker, just because of her name? Shenanigan knows she can become whatever she wants, even a detective. And she's determined to follow the twisty clues and catch the killer.

Deliciously suspenseful and delightfully clever, The Swifts is a remarkable debut that is both brilliantly contemporary and instantly classic. A celebration of words and individuality, it's packed with games, wordplay, and lots and lots of mischief as Shenanigan sets out to save her family and define herself in a world where definitions are so important.

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