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The Black Book of Secrets Hardcover – October 2, 2007

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 9 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 4 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 830L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Feiwel & Friends; First Edition edition (October 2, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312368445
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312368449
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #466,009 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Praise for The Black Book of Secrets:

“Wonderful. Anyone looking for the next big thing has come to the right place. Higgins has created a uniquely grim fantasy world that more than holds its own with Dickens or Peake. Her characters are brilliantly realized and the story grabs at the reader with hooked talons.” —Eoin Colfer

“This polished debut from a British writer tantalizingly blends secrets and thick, evocative atmosphere . . . Higgins, framing her book as texts discovered in a hallowed wooden leg, expertly sustains the audience’s curiosity, revealing just enough information to keep readers riveted. And for all the grisly details, the novel gets at important themes about self-determination and trust. Original and engrossing.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review

“The story’s vaguely Dickensian atmosphere is exquisite . . . A tantalizingly revelatory ending leaves at least one thread dangling for future volumes (which are sure to evoke more picaresque oddities and nefarious tales), making this a smart, peculiarly thrilling book that is sure to appeal to readers ready to sidestep the goodygoody Harry Potters of adventure fiction.” —Booklist, starred review

“Higgins’s debut begins with a bang—on the streets of a London as dark as in any Dickens novel—and ends in a mysterious cave, with no let-up in pacing from start to finish . . . One of Higgins’s great achievements is the way she manages to convey a degree of innocence in Ludlow despite his harsh life surviving the city streets. Redemption emerges as a strong theme in the book, as she reveals the complexities of human nature, and she leaves open several mysteries (including the history behind a wooden leg and Joe’s prized pet frog). Readers can only hope for many more black books filled with secrets.” —Shelf Awareness

“Pre-teens who enjoy historically based fantasy . . . will find The Black Book of Secrets thoroughly rewarding.”—The Washington Post

“Will keep readers on the edge of their seats.” —Scripps Howard News Service

“There can be few more nightmarish openings than that of The Black Book of Secrets . . . A beguiling mix of gothic fairy tale and Dahlesque macabre for 9–13-year-olds.” —The Telegraph (UK)

“Higgins creates a fascinating novel peopled with colorful characters and imbued with clever plot twists . . . the novel’s climax is both excellent and surprising.” —VOYA

“Higgins’s fine writing and wry tale will charm readers who are ready for the unusual . . . like the film Chocolat . . . a stranger enters a town and changes the lives there forever, all from the confines of a small shop, this time a pawnbroker’s place.” —KLIATT

“The resolution, as tidy a piece of plotting as can be imagined, not only collects all the plot threads but leads to the deeper revelation of who Joe is and why he plies such a curious trade. Strongly seasoned with details of nineteenth-century oddities, the story abounds with puzzles, quirks, and enticing disclosures.” —The Horn Book

“While Ludlow & Co. do live in an alternate reality, there are many details about life in the late 1800s that readers of historical fiction will enjoy—especially those who like reading about the more gruesome, less well-known details, like stealing and selling teeth, grave robbers, body snatchers and Sweeney Todd.” —Bookshelves of Doom

“I thought this book was outstanding. It's a horror book with lots of mystery. I would give it four stars.” —Jennifer Hopkins, age 11, in the Washington Times

“Higgins’ debut novel is a page-turning mystery brimming with humor and originality. The ending hints of a sequel, which is good news for anyone lucky enough to read this unusual and absorbing book.” —Naomi Milliner, Children’s Literature

From the Back Cover

“Grabs at the reader with hooked talons.”—Eoin Colfer


A boy arrives at a remote village in the dead of night. His name is Ludlow Fitch—and he is running from a most terrible past. What he is about to learn is that in this village is the life he has dreamed of—a safe place to live, and a job, as the assistant to the mysterious pawnbroker who trades people’s deepest, darkest secrets for cash. Ludlow’s job is to neatly transcribe the confessions in an ancient leather-bound tome: The Black Book of Secrets.

            Ludlow yearns to trust his mentor, who refuses to disclose any information on his past experiences or future interactions. What the pawnbroker does not know is, in a town brimming with secrets, the most troubling may be held by his new apprentice.


Born in London, F.E. Higgins moved to Ireland at the age of seven. After attending university in Dublin, she returned to England, and now lives in a house that dates back to the 15th century in a small village in rural Kent. The Black Book of Secrets is her first novel.

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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I read this book out loud with my son, one or so chapters a night.
Cheryl Heughins
This is a wonderful dark fantasy book that is wonderfully written and I love the very visual world created within this fun and spooky story.
The author weaves an intricate plot and the quirky characters throughout are very engaging and fun.
K. Eckert

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Thom Denick on November 1, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Why no one knows about this book yet is a mystery to me. I found it in a French bookstore, in the English section, in Quebec City. This is an absolutely wonderful first book filled with true horror and wonders for all ages.

I don't know why the book's publisher has chosen to categorize this book only for 9-12 year olds, as it reads quite fine to me at 29. I bought it without noticing it was a children's book, and got a good way in before I even realized that was the intention.

The story starts out with an anguishing bit of horror, and then quickly moves through the English countryside as we follow our city-boy protaganist to where he lands in Parvus Pravil, where he meets and apprentices with the most extraordinary pawnbroker.

The pawnbroker specializes in people's secrets, and at midnight invites townfolk to his shop where they tell them his worst secrets and he pays them for their safe keeping.

I think fans of Harry Potter, The Sandman, and Lemony Snicket, all will truly enjoy this novel.

Also, I have no idea what this other review is talking about as this story is very clearly about a little boy, who in no way discovers a book of secrets, but instead, helps write one.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Pop Bop TOP 500 REVIEWER on January 15, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Look at these reviews - unique, different, gothic, interesting, delicious, macabre, vivid, thrilling. How is that for making an impression on readers?

I don't know why the Higgins books have not made it into the mainstream, or why they get so little buzz, but I congratulate you on having found this site, and encourage you to give this book a try. It is a great introduction to quality writing.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Kim Baccellia, "YA Books Central reviewer" on December 16, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Everyone has secrets. Some small, others big. Imagine if you could sell your worse secret and have someone else deal with it. Such is the premise of the book, THE BLACK BOOK OF SECRETS.

Ludlow Fitch barely escapes a terrible fate in the City. Latching onto a carriage he finds himself in a village and a new twist of fate. A mysterious pawnbroker, Joe Zabbidon, offers him employment to write down the villagers deepest, darkest secrets in the Black Book of Secrets.

At first everything seems like a dream come true-Ludlow has a warm bed, employment, and respect. This was something that alluded him as a pickpocket back in the City.

But not all villagers are happy with the pawnbroker. Jeremiah Ratchet owns most of the village. He watches as those who used to be in his debt, no longer fear him.

What secrets are in the book? Jeremiah hatches a plot to gain assess to the book and hopefully get the villagers back into his debt.

All the while Ludlow has his own secret, one that gives him nightmares every night. Though he is thankful to Joe for what he's done, he can't help but wonder about the pawnbroker. Is he the devil like some whisper?

I LOVED this book! From the very first page I was transported to this fantasy world. Who wouldn't want to sell their darkest secrets? This is a fast-paced read that will keep you glued to each villager's secret. Some of the secrets are pretty graphic but I couldn't help myself. I wanted to read more!

The details of the time period were realistic. I admit, I squimmed when I read about Barton Gumbroot's special talent of pulling teeth to sell to the wealthy.

I recommend this book to those who love reading historical fantasies.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Amber on December 6, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This book is very unique in that the plot reveals little secrets and hints about the character that make you wonder if the book is in the supernatural genre. However, the author leaves that open for interpretation because everything could easily be explained by natural causes and effects. It is a fun mystery book for the young adult audience with twists and turns sure to keep anyone enthralled.

This book is also unique because the author takes the time to describe all of the characters in depth. Every character is important and none are to be overlooked. There is also the clever placement of a symbol at strategically placed intervals in the chapters. Its meaning is revealed at the end of the book. It's a very clever tool to use in the formatting of the book. Even the outward appearance of the book is interesting. It is built as the Book of Secrets is described in the story. It almost gives it a creepy feeling when you look at its black edged pages.

As a whole, the book is very clever and an enjoyable read. I would especially recommend this book for the grades of seven through ten, but anyone could enjoy this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By K. Eckert TOP 1000 REVIEWER on April 19, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Previously I had read The Bone Magician (the second book in this series) and really enjoyed it. I was eager to read this book since it was supposed to be even better than The Bone Magician. While I didn't think this book was better, just different than the Bone Magician, I absolutely loved it and devoured it from cover to cover.

Ludlow Fitch flees his evil parents and ends up in the sleepy rural town of Parvus Pravil. There he meets another new resident to the town a Pawnbroker named Joe Zabbidon. Joe is not any Pawnbroker; he is a Pawnbroker of Secrets and he needs some help with the everyday running of his Pawnshop. Ludlow ends up apprenticing to Joe and finds out that there are more secrets in this sleepy town than he could have imagined. Ludlow also witnesses how a simple Pawnbroker can change the fate of a town.

I adored this book just as much as I adored The Bone Magician. This book is dark in tone, very Gothic but not without humor here and there. It takes place in a sort of Victorian era in a rural setting. There are many unpleasant things that happen and Ludlow must navigate around them to find his calling.

Higgins does an absolutely fantastic job with description and creating a moody, dark atmosphere...that (while a bit spooky) never gets too scary. The author weaves an intricate plot and the quirky characters throughout are very engaging and fun. I had trouble putting this book down and thoroughly enjoyed the writing style.
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