Sunday, 7 February 2010

Review: Mr Mumbles (Invisible Fiends) by Barry Hutchison


When Kyle Alexander was four-years-old he had an imaginary friend: a happy, cheerful little chap whose unfortunate speech impediment earned him the name Mr Mumbles. Like all children, Kyle grew up. By the time he was six he had stopped seeing Mr Mumbles. By the time he was eight he had forgotten Mr Mumbles ever existed. But Mr Mumbles never once forgot about him...

On a wild and windy Christmas Day when Kyle is twelve, a very different Mr Mumbles returns. This time, though, he doesn't want to be friends, and he has no intention of "playing nice". All he craves is revenge on the boy who cast him aside all those years ago. And he will stop at nothing to get it. (synopsis taken from


Forget about reading the rest of this review - you are only wasting time that should be spent shooting out to your local bookshop to buy this book!

Still here? Why? Let me phrase it another way then - if you don't go out and buy this book then I will make sure Mr Mumbles finds out and he just might want to pay you a visit, and that is something you really, really do not want to happen. Mr Mumbles is the ultimate horror villain - if you're old enough, think Freddy Krueger, Jason Vorhees and Michael Myers all rolled into one. If you are not old enough to know what I am talking about then ask your parents. He lurks in the deepest depths of your childhood memories, just waiting for you to remember him. Just waiting for you to open that doorway to let him back into your life..... with a vengeance! And when he does come back, whatever you throw at him, however much you might try to hurt him, he will shrug it all off in a seemingly indestructible manner and he will chase you to the ends of the earth... or even worse - to Hell and back!

Like all great horror villains his features are truly nightmarish, the description of his mouth being particularly nasty:

‘And his lips... Oh, God, the lips! Mr Mumbles had always had problems with talking but it had been a speech impediment, that was all. Now his whole mouth was disfigured.

The lips were grotesque: thick, bloated, and sewn tightly together with grimy lengths of thread. Each stitch crossed over its neighbour, forming a series of little Xs from one side of his mouth to the other, sealing it shut. The holes the threads passed through were black and infected, the flesh rotting away from within.’

The kids/YA horror genre seems to be having a bit of a renaissance this year. I have already reviewed several outstanding books in this genre that are due to be released in 2010 (Witchfinder and Crawlers) and Mr Mumbles is yet another outstanding addition to this list. Some horror stories go out of their way to appear bloody and gory - literature's version of a slasher movie - but Mr Mumbles, like Crawlers, hits you on a psychological level. There is very little blood in the story - the horror comes from the relentlessness of Mr Mumbles' attacks, and the fact that his creation began many years ago in Kyle's past, when he started off as a harmless imaginary friend. Many children had some form of imaginary friend when they when younger, but did you ever wonder what happened to them once that child grew up and forgot about them? This is the sort of thing that will scare kids who read it, and this is a good thing as kids love to be scared in this way.

In this story Barry Hutchison also delivers some great characters. Aside from Kyle, there is also the fearless, and slightly mysterious, Ameena who appears on the scene to aid Kyle in his quest to escape/destroy Mr Mumbles. There is Kyle's mother - a seemingly normal, loving single-mum, who obviously has a few secrets she wants to remain hidden from Kyle such as who his dad is. And then there is Kyle's Nan - at times totally barking mad, but also showing occasional lucid moments that when coupled with her mad ramblings help to reveal hints about Kyle's childhood years. Mr Hutchison uses these hints sparingly - he wants to keep you guessing what is going to happen next, and he does this incredibly well. And just as you think you have it all worked out...BLAM! like Mr Mumbles he he hits you full in the face with a twist that you never saw coming at all.

This book has everything: the aforementioned horror, great characters, nail-biting fight scenes, heaps of tension and just enough humour to make you smile (just a little) between the horror scenes. It is the first in a planned series of six Invisible Fiends books, with the second (called Raggy Maggie) due to be released in July 2010. There is a short excerpt from Raggy Maggie at the end of this first book, and it looks as if it might be even more terrifying than Mr Mumbles. The flash-forward prologue of Mr Mumbles also gives us a taste of what is to come - unlike many books where the story set-up in the prologue is usually concluded within the book, the author has used his prologue to set the scene for the whole series. The ending of Mr Mumbles is also a blinder, although its disturbing nature is likely to impact more on the psyche of adult readers.

Mr Mumbles is published by HarperCollins and is in stores already. The Invisible Fiends is also well worth a visit and if you go to this Bebo page before the end of February you could win one of 50 copies of the book.


  1. Can't wait for my copy of this to arrive. Must remember to ensure we have plenty of lightbulbs, though, as I'll be reading it with ALL the lights on...

  2. You are brave if you intend to read it at night before going to sleep! And you certainly won't want to be out walking alone in the dark ever again either.

  3. Sound really good and I would say this is a good review of the book, so well done!!!!!