Skulduggery Pleasant is the debut novel by Derek Landy, and on this evidence I believe he should have many successful books ahead of him. He tells the tale of a wise-cracking skeleton detective, who befriends a young girl called Stephenie Edgley when her uncle is murdered. They are from then drawn into a world of magic and mystery and uncover a plot by the leading dark wizard to bring back old Gods and murder all those without magic.
The plot moves at breakneck speed, with sparkling dialogue between Skulduggery and Stephenie. It is easy to follow and twists many cliches in the pursuit of entertainment. The skeletal detective at the heart of the novel is by far the best part of it all - never less than interesting, witty and good-humoured. I would greatly enjoy reading more adventures involving him.
Stephenie is resourceful, brave and cool-headed - a fine role model for girls who pick up this book. In fact, the strength of these two characters cause the others to fall into their shadow and the secondary characters are never truly fleshed out to the point where you would care about them.
I also have complaints about the bad guy who, despite my earlier words, is terribly cliched. He is paper-thin in terms of characterisation, never really gives reason for his motives, and is used more for comedy effect than tense moments.
It is easy to see that Landy has a background in martial arts because his fight scenes are effective and efficiently-written, showing us clearly how they would play out.
Lastly, I would comment that the system of magic, while unoriginal, shows signs of being used to a greater extent in novels to follow.
Altogether this is a blast of a debut novel, setting the scene in an exciting manner for more tales of Skulduggery Pleasant.