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‘Secrets and Spies: A Scottish Mystery’ by Mary Rosambeau is a brilliant middle-grade fiction book focusing on 10 year-old Rory. Based in a Scottish harbour town, there’s a mystery at the heart of the plot as Rory’s mother has an accident and rumours spread about spies in the town. Rory and his friends stumble into the middle of the mystery and there’s plenty of twists to keep the reader guessing right along with the characters.This story is based around the author’s hometown and the plot rings with authenticity and I particularly like the extra details such as the school railings and church bells being taken for scrap and school holidays being given so children can help with the potato harvest. These little embellishments were educational but also helped to add more dimension to the story.
There are some pencil-style illustrations occasionally throughout and I thought these were quite charming. However I found the storytelling to be the highlight of this book. There's mystery and adventure that draws you in and entices you to keep reading until the very last page. Outside of the historical fiction and WWII themes, there's additional details in the characterisation and the characters' relationships that transcends genre such as the characterisation of Charlie, and his role as the school bully as a reflection of his treatment by his brother. There’s also Paul’s confidence and the positive focus on his disabilities as well as the close confidences he keeps with his parents. I think that there's something in this 'Secrets and Spies' for everyone, and lots of different things to take away from the story. I feel it will have a very wide appeal and I really enjoyed reading it and would recommend it to middle grade readers.
Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
Ten-year-old Rory Mackay dreams of being a fighter pilot. But before he can conquer the Nazis, he’ll have to deal with anenemy much closer to home.
When Rory's family moves to the north coast of Scotland, he is dismayed. He feels lost until he makes friends with Paul, another outsider at his school. No military Keep Out signs stop this pair having fun. From sneaking down to the harbour to fish, and watching for the mysterious arrival of a strange Norwegian trawler, war seems a world away. But, one day, Rory’s mother suffers an unexplained accident which changes everything.
When the boys set out to discover what caused Mrs Mackay’s fall, they stumble upon a dark secret; one that could threaten the very fabric of the nation. Battling bombs, smugglers, and bullies, Rory and Paul face a desperate race against time. Will they save the village, or will they fall victim to the enemy within?
Set against the backdrop of coastal Scotland, Secrets and Spies is a tale of love, friendship, and wartime conflict. Having extensively researched the history of this area, Mary Rosambeau crafts a compelling story that will both move and entertain you.
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