Jones, Diana Wynne. Witch’s Business (2002 ed.) 201 Pages. Greenwillow Books. $17.89
After getting in trouble for breaking a chair, Jess and Frank’s father stops their pocket money, leaving them to find a new way of making spending money. Their brilliant idea is Own Back Ltd (Revenge Arranged. Price according to task. All difficult feats undertaken. Treasure hunted, etc.) Almost immediately, their plan backfires, and things get very complicated very quickly. Buster Knell– the neighborhood bully– is their first customer, and they unwillingly take his job.
Nothing good comes from revenge, and with every job they get more embroiled in a local mystery. Biddy Iremonger is the center of their problems; by starting Own Back Ltd, they’ve stepped on Biddy’s toes and angered the witch. There’s a lot more going on than Jess and Frank angering Biddy– several children have been cursed, some are enslaved, and all of them want to be freed from Biddy’s evil. By unraveling their well-meant mistakes, Jess and Frank do a lot more than earn some pocket money.
It’s apparent, reading this novel, that Diana Wynne Jones has done nothing but improve since her debut. It’s a great read, and an entertaining plot, but her later books have a bit more going on.
For a debut novel, Witch’s Business is great. The characters are interesting, the mystery is mysterious, and the story succeeds in drawing you in. However, it is a drama on a child’s scale; things which are dramatic or terrifying to the characters are less so for an adult reader. This book gets a 4 out of 5.