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‘Who killed me?’

Gonsalvo Borg Buttigieg has just died. His soul is standing on the 77,777th step of the staircase to heaven. Waiting. Waiting and arguing with a chap who is calling himself ‘The Guardian of the Heavenly Gates’.

Things are not cherubic.

“I’m sorry, you cannot come in,” says the young lad kitted in a white shirt, white suit, white socks and white shoes.

Gonsalvo frowns: this man-in-white looks nothing like St Peter. Where is the bearded saint who holds the key to the gates and why aren’t they letting him in?

“We cannot give you the halo for now: you need to go back to Earth. Unfinished business, Gonsalvo – cases like these are always sent back.”

One doesn’t argue with the man-in-white, so Gonsalvo had no choice but to start going back down the 77,777 steps to the land of the living – this time as an invisible ghost. His mission was clear: he had to discover who had killed him and why. To succeed in his task, he first had to enlist the help of a 10-year-old boy called Miki Borg.

Termini u Kundizzjonijiet Japplikaw is the se­cond, touching, twisted, and most of all, hilarious novel for children and teenagers from Roberta Bajada, one of the most interesting children’s authors in the country.

It is a book full of wacky humour, with modern-day issues such as adolescent love and addiction to online gaming. However, the author’s real skill becomes apparent in the way she stokes the relationship between young, naïve Miki and the ghost of elderly Gonsalvo.

“The thing is, the old and the young might not always understand each other because of the generation gap. In the end, both Gonsalvo and Miki realise that they need each other in order to progress with their life, and well, their death,” says Bajada.

“In a way, it is not so much a novel about death as it is a humourous, symbolic representation of this friendship,” she says.

Termini u Kundizzjonijiet Japplikaw also brings out the author’s love of the environment and her angst at its destruction at the hands of developers. “I am naturally a nostalgic, romantic person, and the setting had to be that of my own childhood. Seeing my favourite views and play areas being devoured up by so-called ‘development’ left an impact on my life. So I tried to vent it all out… in a light-hearted manner,” she quips.

The novel is the winner of the Young Adult Literature Award organised by the National Book Council and Aġenzija Żgħażagħ. Bajada is also a past finalist of the abbozz literary competition, with her first novel Arloġġ u Tila.

Merlin Publishers director Chris Gruppetta said: “When we read the manuscript, we were very excited to bid for this book, and it was an honour to have been awarded it for publication. Bajada’s knack for dialogue and humour makes her one of the most promising new talents around in children’s and young adult fiction.”

Termini u Kundizzjonijiet Japplikaw is available from all bookshops or online directly from www.merlinpublishers.com.

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