The Doldrums is a whirlwind of an eccentric adventure tale centered on Archer B. Helmsley, the 11-year-old grandson of a pair of world-famous explorers thought to have disappeared on an Antarctic iceberg. He lives with his parents in his grandparents’ museum-like home, brimming with artifacts from their travels, including a stuffed ostrich, badger and giraffe that Archer occasionally talks to. Archer is bored and lonely; his overprotective mother barely lets him out of the house, fearing that her son has inherited the dangerous wandering genes of his forebears.
And indeed he has.
Luckily, the virtually imprisoned Archer discovers two trusty sidekicks: neighbor Oliver Glub and Adelaide Belmont, who has just moved from Paris with her wooden leg, reportedly the result of an unfortunate encounter with a crocodile.
Archer notices many mysterious details surrounding his grandparents, including mysterious trunks of belongings delivered by a man with an eye patch. As a result, he remains hopeful that his relatives are still alive, and of course decides to investigate for himself.
First-time novelist Nicholas Gannon has created a lavish, fun-filled romp that’s complemented by delightfully detailed full-color and black-and-white illustrations. Fans of Polly Horvath’s Everything on a Waffle and Lemony Snicket books are likely to be attracted to this novel with its likable young heroes and a cast of suspicious and nervous-Nelly adults. However, readers may ultimately be disappointed that there’s a lot more planning and plotting than actual adventure. The trio never makes it to the Antarctic, although absolute chaos erupts in the final wild scenes set in a museum, including tigers on the loose.