The Dead Gentleman

Knopf recently published Matthew Cody's middle grade novel The Dead Gentleman.

The story is a wild ride between parallel New York City timestreams — 1901 and today. Tommy (living in 1901) teams up with Jezebel (living today) and together they seek to thwart the Dead Gentleman — a legendary villain whose last unconquered world is planet Earth. It’s an Amazon Best Book of the Month and an American Booksellers Association Indie Next List Selection.

Here is a tantalizing glimpse:

When Jezebel turned around to head back, she saw something under the basement stairs. A dark shape was standing just behind the stairwell, next to the wall. It was a boy, and he startled Jez at first. She would’ve heard someone come down those creaky old stairs, so that meant he must’ve been down here the whole time, watching her. She nearly hollered when she saw him.


“Hey, you. What do you think you’re doing?” She shined her flashlight at him to get a better look, even as she took a cautious step backward. He was around her age but dressed in some kind of costume. He wore a long coat, one of those dusters that cowboys wear in the movies, and he had a ridiculous pair of goggles pulled down over his eyes. Yet there was something indistinct about him, kind of fuzzy at the edges. There must have been a lot of dust down there playing with her light.
When he didn’t answer right away, Jez began to get nervous.
“Hey, Bernie,” she shouted, trying to sound a bit rougher than she really was. “Did you know that there is a creepy kid in a Halloween costume down here trying to scare me?”
That’s when she heard the door at the top of the stairs slam shut.
Now her nervousness turned to actual fear. The boy stepped forward. Jez took a stumbling step back. “All right, listen. If you come closer I’m going to call the police and smack your teeth out with this flashlight. And not in that order!”
“It’s you,” the boy said.
“Oookay, it’s me. Now who the heck are you?”
“There’re things you need to know,” the boy said. “The closet in the dark room—there are monsters in there. The reason you’re afraid to let your arm dangle when you’re sleeping is because things are waiting under the bed for you. The space under the stairs is bigger than the space above it and people do disappear there. Attics can be wonderful or deadly, and when you’re alone at home and feel eyes watching you—those are real, too. An overgrown garden’s never just an overgrown garden and an old basement’s never, ever just an old basement.”
The boy stopped talking for a moment and checked a bulky brass device strapped to his gloved wrist. It looked like a cross between a wristwatch and a nautical compass.
“I don’t have much time. But you’ve got to be warned. Keep safe and trust your instincts. Be careful. Be smart. Be afraid. The Dead Gentleman’s coming.”
The device on his wrist made a small dinging sound. Then he was gone. He didn’t move and it wasn’t a trick of the light in this dark basement. The boy just disappeared. Vanished. After that Jezebel did the only logical thing she could think of—she screamed. She screamed as loudly and for as long as she could, and when she was finished, she screamed some more.

Reprinted by permission of Knopf Books for Young Readers. For more information on Matthew and his book, visit