“A Hitch at the Fairmont,” Jim Averbeck, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 416 pages.


At his mother’s funeral, Aunt Edith showed up to take Jack to live with her at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco.

She turned out to be not the most caring guardian. Now that he had lost both parents, she considered him a full orphan.

He had to take what he was given, even though it was nothing. Jack remembered that orphans in books were always full of pluck. Jack just felt queasy.

Aunt Edith sent Jack out to buy her favorite chocolates. When he returned, she had disappeared.

He found a ransom note written in chocolate. It demanded $200,000, but there was $10,000 in her purse.

Alfred Hitchcock lived at the same hotel and offered to help Jack. He discouraged Jack from going to the police.

Hitchcock did not like the police but when Jack insisted, the police would not help find Aunt Edith.

They knew Hitchcock was notorious for setting up crazy stunts for publicity purposes.

Through the use of a storyboard which reminded Jack of a comic strip, Jack and Hitch made plans, using pictures in sequence, on how to rescue his aunt.

Their quest to find the kidnapper led them to attend a funeral at Mission Delores Basilica. Jack recognized the social worker who tried to add Jack to her caseload.

Singing unacceptable lyrics to “Amazing Grace,” they escaped the social worker in what Hitch considers “an escape brilliantly played.”

With ideas from Alfred Hitchcock, the master moviemaker, Jack finds himself on an exciting journey.

They stumble onto cryptic clues and a wide variety of villains. How will they deal with hidden doorways?

Jim Averbeck has written his first middle-grade novel set in San Francisco’s Fairmont Hotel in 1956.

Using a blend of fact and fiction, the events in this novel have their basis in reality. Other books by Averbeck include “Except If” and “Oh No, Little Dragon.”

JoAn Watson Martin is an educator.

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