Skulduggery Pleasant is the first of the six Skulduggery Pleasant novels by Irish playwright Derek Landy. Published in 2007, this debut novel, which won Red House Children's Book Award, the Hampshire Book Award in the same year, and the Bolton Children’s Book Award in 2008, spans various genres including horror, magic and mystery.
Skulduggery Pleasant, an undead sorcerer and detective, collaborates with 12-year-old Stephanie Edgley alias Valkyrie Cain, and other powerful allies to stop Nefarian Serpine from gaining world domination, with the help of a dangerous weapon.
Stephanie’s uncle, Gordon Edgley, finishes the final chapter of his book and the next day he is dead. His will is read in the presence of a man in a tan overcoat, hat, sunglasses and scarf. While Gordon leaves behind his big mansion and royalties from the sale of his best-selling novels to Stephanie, her aunt Beryl and uncle Fergus are given his car, a boat and a brooch.
Alone in the mansion, Stephanie is attacked in the night by a stranger who is after a key. The man in the overcoat, Skulduggery Pleasant, turns up to save her, conjuring a fireball which he throws at the attacker, who remains unharmed and defiant. Skulduggery pulls out an old-fashioned revolver and fires at the attacker. In the scuffle, Skulduggery's hat, wig and sunglasses fall off to reveal a skeleton, with no eyes, no face, no skin, an entity held together by magic. Several hundred years ago, Serpine had trapped Skulduggery, murdered his wife and child before his eyes and then killed him after several days of torture. His hate for Serpine allows him to return from the grave as a skeleton.
Stephanie joins Skulduggery to investigate her uncle’s murder, and the two stumble upon Serpine’s sinister plot for world domination. Gordon had come upon an ancient Scepter used by the first sorcerers, the Ancients, to defeat their tyrannical gods, the Faceless Ones. This deadly weapon is sealed beneath the mansion and the old brooch bequeathed to aunt Beryl is actually the key Stephanie’s attacker was after.
Skulduggery must destroy Serpine with the Sceptre to protect Stephanie. He makes her work as his assistant and also teaches her sorcery, which is a logical thing, because Stephanie has discovered that she and her family are descendants of the Ancients and that she herself has magic abilities.
Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy