Book Review: Ghost Hunters Adventure Club and the Secret of the Grande Chateau by Dr. Cecil H.H. Mills

Ghost Hunters Adventure Club and the Secret of the Grande Chateau by Dr. Cecil H.H. Mills Artwork

Ghost Hunters Adventure Club and the Secret of the Grande Chateau is the first book released under the Game Grumps brand, and as regular readers of this blog will tell you I am a huge fan of Game Grumps. The book is ostensibly written by Arin Hanson’s estranged uncle Dr. Cecil H.H. Mills. The book was released on March 22nd 2020 through Permuted Press

The book itself has been received fairly well overall, however there have been some issues which have perhaps damaged the perception of the book. Similarly to Soviet Jump Game, which I’ve also reviewed, this was a property released under the Game Grumps banner, and like Soviet Jump Game the marketing gimmick utilised for the book sparked controversy. I do not wish to spend too much time on this issue, but I feel I would be remiss if I didn’t at least touch on it nonetheless. Essentially, Arin built up this Uncle character in episodes prior to the announcement of the book, and in further updates on social media and in episodes, discussed how he was being pressured by his family to support and promote his Uncle’s book using his platform. Many fans sympathised with this, sharing their own experiences of similar problems. It was then revealed that it was another marketing effort and a certain element of the fan base felt lied to, especially coming so soon off the back of the Soviet Jump Game announcement which as I’ve said above was met with a similar mixed reception. Whether or not this was the best way to release a book, it’s out now and it doesn’t factor into my review beyond being worth mentioning. 

As I said, Arian’s Uncle turned out not to be a real person, in fact it’s clearly Arin in disguise. If, however, you want to find out more about the author then you can check out this video where Arin actually interviews him. Additionally, The Grumps have been kind enough to compile a video of the whole Dr. Cecil H.H Mills Saga which you can check out by clicking here. The team at Game Grumps were also pretty thorough in creating an online presence for the character, he has a Twitter, a Bandcamp, his own personal website and he’s also inexplicably ordained as a minister.

Okay now that we’ve got all of that out of the way let’s dive right into the actual review. Firstly, it’s not a book which takes itself too seriously, it opens with an introduction by the author, which displays prominently his very personality, one which blends grandiosity, pomp and a certain acerbic wit and dryness which is surprisingly funny. It also paints an interesting picture of how he came to write the book, which he clearly does not care for. It all comes across as delightful tongue-in-cheek and while I went in with a certain level of inbuilt goodwill generated through years of being a fan of the Game Grumps, even I was surprised by how much of a good time I had reading it.

At approximately 224 pages it is a little brief, but it was certainly not lacking, and my feeling that it was brief probably had more to do with the fact I just wished there was more. Additionally, the book is clearly something of a parody of similar Young Adult mystery novels such as Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys, and those books, aimed at a younger audience, knew how to be concise without pandering to their readers.

The book follows J.J and Valentine Watts, two people who may or may not be brothers, who fancy themselves as detectives, solving mysteries, but in actual fact aren’t too clever, instead getting by on a mixture of dumb luck, charm and surrounding themselves with smarter accomplices. Speaking of which, in their latest adventure, detailed in the book, they meet and work alongside Trudi de La Rosa , a hotel employee who happens to have what the brothers lack…brains. I really enjoyed the characterisation, the brothers felt familiar, in the sort of bumbling, organic way that not every character manages. They aren’t powerful analytical machines like Sherlock Holmes who can deduce the shade of a woman’s lipstick by seeing her husband’s limp. Instead they come across almost shystery, with a level of bravado and cockiness, mixed with a certain amiability and out for oneself attitude that is both funny and refreshing. 

Likewise Trudi felt very real, she was hungry to prove herself, eager to do anything to stem the boredom and she wasn’t a stick in the mud, in fact her personality balanced out the brothers fairly well and provided the investigation what the brothers lacked. 

Speaking of the investigation, the brothers are called to the Grande Chateau, a hotel built into a snowy mountainside, at the behest of Wallace P. Gross, an author of some note who does his writing from the seclusion of the wintery retreat. He is in short course murdered, sparking an investigation to solve his murder as well as some of the other mysteries of the Grand Chateau. 

The overall story is fast paced, you feel the build up happen very quickly and similarly pay off. I do want to add that as a massive fan of the mystery/thriller genre I prefer more careful plotting and I like it more when upon proper analysis the reader can also solve the mystery, not always the most obvious choice but the killer should always be on your bingo card. In this case I don’t think that was true. It was certainly an interesting and enjoyable story and I liked the pastiche of the genre, I liked the humour and the characters, and I felt that it was overall a good piece of fiction but I will admit to being a touch disappointed in the pacing. A mystery should build, it should create tension and confusion, you should want to solve it too by the end but because of the more irreverent delivery of the book that aspect didn’t land as well as it could have. 

That being said, it was well plotted, I enjoyed the story immensely, it managed to incorporate and balance over the top elements like the actual author of the book appearing, in a splendidly meta fashion with the honest to god sleuthing that the genre is known for, all the while managing to be a funny book that I actually laughed at, rather than slightly exhaling breath through my nose. I think had this book taken itself a little more seriously, been a touch less self aware it might have been a better mystery but not a better book. It has its own energy and soul which is distinct to the book, and broadly the brand it was birthed from. I think the word I’m looking for is quirky, but I hesitate to use that word much anymore as it’s been co-opted by people as the go to description for Zooey Deschanel.

I’ve seen others complain about it but I happened to like the campy, almost Scooby Doo quality of some of it, but then I’m a sucker of the almost saccharine mystery solving sleuths. It’s why Murder, She Wrote is my comfort show, the one I watch when the world gets to be a bit much and I need something to make me feel better. I can understand why some people might have been disappointed but the core mystery and as I’ve said above I felt it could have been better executed but fundamentally I think that the core of the book, while a little ridiculous, is one which has merit and it’s certainly worth a read.

So overall I think Ghost Hunters Adventure Club and the Secret of the Grande Chateau, and by god is that a long title, is an entertaining read, I’ve read it at least twice and found it to be equally enjoyable both times. It does have its issues but they are nothing that could not be developed in subsequent releases assuming they will be writing more, an assertion which is backed up by this tweet. So with all that said, I think I’ll give the book a 3.5/5 and say that if you want to check it out for yourself you can purchase it on Amazon or via the Game Grumps Merch page directly and if you’re not sure you can check out Arin reading a few chapters of it by clicking here to give you a little taste for free. Speaking of which, while I’m not a huge fan of audio books I’ve been told it’s really good as an audio book and you can get it in that format by clicking here.

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