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Find our latest selection of crime and mystery books, from serious whodunnits to failed comic detectives.
August 2021 Book of the Month | Edie is still grieving for her mother, killed a year earlier in a horrible accident, when she discovers a secret note her mother left for her. It states that the ‘accident’ was anything but, and that this is the first in a trail of clues she has left for her daughter, explaining what it was she was investigating, and why it got her killed. The tension heightens as Edie solves the clues, putting herself in more and more danger. The people who arranged her mother’s murder are utterly ruthless while Edie has very few she can turn to for help. Anthony Kessel handles plot and character well and this DIY detective story will appeal to fans of Holly Jackson and Sophie McKenzie. NB, there’s one particularly violent scene that some readers might find upsetting.
September 2021 Debut of the Month | There are lots of orphans in children’s books, but few have as sad or dangerous a story to tell as Bastien Bonlivre. After his writer parents die tragically in a hotel fire, Bastien must live in the Orphanage for Gentils Garçons in Paris. Under the rule of the tyrannical Xavier Odieux, the orphanage is a miserable place, though Bastien’s secret night-time storytelling sessions always give the boys a boost. Life is particularly bad for Bastien thanks to Xavier’s apparent obsession with the notebook his parents left him; and could this somehow be linked to the strange disappearances of other successful authors? The adventure that develops is as exciting as those invented by Bastien’s parents’ favourite, Alexandre Dumas, culminating in a terrifying chase through the Paris catacombs. Set during the 1920s, scattered with French phrases and verbal flourishes, with its fast-paced plot and unforced emphasis on the power of stories to shape lives, this is a very bon livre indeed.
September 2021 Book of the Month | On the eve of Ghastly Night, a hypnotic stage magician, Caliastra, checks in to Eerie-on-Sea’s Grand Nautilus Hotel. She’s arrived with her entourage to put on a show – and she claims to be related to Herbert Lemon. Caliastra’s act is so shadowy and strange that Herbie’s friend Violet wonders if dark forces are at work, but Herbie won’t hear a word said against his new relation.
The Christie and Agatha Detective Agency | What a great book, obviously the start of a fun series. The two main characters, children called Agatha and Christie; one inquisitive and practical, the other quiet and academic, but with the closeness and affinity of twins. The story revolves around a tea party where penicillin (mould juice) is hidden in a sandwich as an experiment, but who is it that takes the sandwich? As the plot unfolds, various interesting characters are introduced, such as Arthur Conon Doyle, the famous writer, and Alexander Fleming the famous scientist. The book is a very clever mixture of fact and fantasy with all the loose ends cleverly resolved at the end. Even Hercule Poirot is hinted at with a passing comment by the Belgian neighbour referring to using ‘one’s little grey cells’ There is a sufficient mixture of humour and mystery to make it very readable. It reminded me of the film ‘Young Sherlock’ that gives you the background/childhood of Sherlock Holmes. The historical references and explanations at the end are well written and would I think spark a child’s imagination and interest to go on and find out more about the author Conon Doyle and the history of penicillin.
The Sherlock Holmes classic is adapted into a version for young readers here and in a way that catches all the intrigue, drama and atmosphere of the original. Short though it is, all the details and clues are there – the legend of the terrifying hound, the mystery of the stolen boots, the strange lights flashing across the moor at night. Doctor Watson’s narrative is as vigorous as it is in Conan Doyle’s novels, his no-nonsense attitude heightening the thrill of the various spooky goings-on, and Holmes is the same enigmatic figure too. Black and white illustrations punctuate the story nicely and this is both an excellent introduction to these timeless stories and enthralling reading in its own right. Publisher Sweet Cherry have adapted lots more of the Sherlock Holmes stories for young readers which is great, as having read this they will undoubtedly be hungry for more.
Young Herbert Lemon has an honest heart and that matters a lot in Thomas Taylor’s story of magic and mystery. Herbert lives in the Grand Nautilus Hotel in the seaside town of Eerie. The hotel is right on the sea front and the mist that rolls in could be hiding all sorts of things, even the scaly Malamander, subject of so many town legends. Helping his new friend Violet find clues to the whereabouts of her missing parents – Herbert is a lost and found expert – results in the two children coming closer to the Malamander than they could ever have expected. Eerie is a wonderfully edgy place, strange, gothic and inhabited by some singular people, and Herbert and Violet’s adventures are equally unique and totally enthralling.
Book Band: Dark Red (Ideal for ages 10+) | An exciting contemporary mystery set in a Thai family in London, by Emma Shevah, author of Dream On, Amber. When Ping visits her Aunty Lek and her cousins Tong and Taptim it usually isn't long before they're on an adventure. Aunty Lek's precious ring is missing, and she's sure it's been stolen. Will Ping, Tong and Taptim be able to solve the case of the missing ring? This contemporary story features black-and-white illustrations by Izzy Evans.
Book Band: Grey (Ideal for ages 8+) | An exciting detective story from Chitra Soundar, author of over 50 children's books in the UK, India and the US. Sindhu and Jeet are the best detectives in town: they solve all their cases with a dollop of observation, a dash of imagination and a whole load of legwork. And when they travel from India to England for a holiday, the detective work doesn't stop! This page-turning story is accompanied by black-and-white illustrations by Amberin Huq.
A thrilling new short story collection in the number-one bestselling, award-winning Murder Most Unladylike series. Featuring six marvellous mini-mysteries, including four original, brand-new and never-seen-before stories: The Case of the Second Scream: set aboard the ship carrying Daisy and Hazel back from Hong Kong The Case of the Uninvited Guest: Uncle Felix and Aunt Lucy's wedding is the target for an unlikely threat The Hound of Weston School: the Junior Pinkertons investigate a mysterious arrival The Case of the Deadly Flat: introducing Hazel's little sister May, who's determined to be the greatest spy ever The Case of the Missing Treasure: the detectives crack fiendish codes to catch a daring thief who is targeting London's famous museums The Case of the Drowned Pearl: murder follows the Detective Society wherever they go, even on holiday... The perfect book for all Detective Society fans and avid readers of the Murder Most Unladylike series.
The third and final thrilling book in the bestselling, award-winning A Good Girl's Guide to Murder trilogy Pip Fitz-Amobi is haunted by the way her last investigation ended. Soon she'll be leaving for Cambridge University but then another case finds her . . . and this time it's all about Pip. Pip is used to online death threats, but there's one that catches her eye, someone who keeps asking: who will look for you when you're the one who disappears? And it's not just online. Pip has a stalker who knows where she lives. The police refuse to act and then Pip finds connections between her stalker and a local serial killer. The killer has been in prison for six years, but Pip suspects that the wrong man is behind bars. As the deadly game plays out, Pip realises that everything in Little Kilton is finally coming full circle. If Pip doesn't find the answers, this time she will be the one who disappears . . .
Book Band: Lime (Ideal for ages 7+) | Using clever barks and actions, the two dogs are able to help their owner Constable Penrose solve a burglary, using cunning and ingenuity. The book is amusingly illustrated by Nathan Reed. The characters are all rather typecast but in an amusing way; the dim sergeant, the burglars, Bernie and Sam, and Mrs Pudding the baker. There is lots of humour throughout and a great use of alliteration and rhyme – Inspector Hector and dodging dirty dustbins, being two examples. I love how this story, even though it is written for young emerging readers, is set out in chapters. Such a plus for older readers who are struggling as it doesn’t feel as if they are reading stories beneath their understanding and chronological age. The reading zone at the end is packed with good ideas for discussion, a little quiz and ideas for creative writing. I am sure this will prove to be a popular read.
When the good people (and animals) of the Starville space station start sprouting extra heads, arms and legs, it’s clearly a case for junior detectives Connor and Ethan. At first the clues point to Pokeweed’s Perfect Pastries and their delicious snorgleberry tarts, but could the ruthless CEO of FluffyCorp be involved too? With the help of Ethan’s four extra noses, the boys quickly sniff out the villains cooking up trouble. As with the previous book in the series it’s deliciously funny, a perfect mix of madcap humour and crime busting, with the added advantage of being set in space (cue lots of rides on hover scooters for a start). The illustrations by Dapo Adeola are out of this world and add more thrills to the adventure.
August 2021 Book of the Month | What a diamond of a thriller this is - a genuine page-turner that snakes with twists readers genuinely won’t see coming. Who to trust? Who to believe? Sophie McKenzie has struck gold with her latest page-turner. Fourteen-year-old Cat is having a hard time of it, to put it mildly. She’s lost her father, her little sister doesn’t speak, and her mum, a former TV astrology celebrity, is more interested in her work than anything Cat says or does. But after receiving a bolt-from-the-blue text alleging that her dad is alive, Cat throws herself into trying to tracking him down, with the help of a newfound friend, handsome Tyler, the first person she’s been able to open up to for an absolute age. A search for a dad becomes a search for a priceless diamond, which in turn becomes a search for the truth - and then a struggle to understand that truth. Driven by Cat’s endearingly determined, courageous personality, this read-in-one-sitting thriller has family and friendship bonds at its fast-beating heart. Find out more about Hide and Secrets as we chat with Sophie McKenzie, our Author of the Month.
July 2021 Debut of the Month | Opening with the arresting scene of a body being discovered, the third in a month, Chris Whitaker’s The Forevers is a thought-provoking page-turner founded on a killer concept - if you could get away with anything without consequence, if the world was about to end, what would you do? “The dead girl lay face down, ashen hair fanned out like she’d been posed. Some kind of terrible masterpiece Mae knew she’d never forget”. This is the grim reality of Mae’s present. At seventeen, she thinks back to ten years earlier, when news of the asteroid first broke - a ticking timebomb that’s set to explode. There’s no avoiding the terrible truth - “She was seventeen years old. She would die in one month”, for the Earth was “so broken not a thing would survive.” Amidst increasing rumbles and tremors, amidst people’s preparations for death, the discovery of the body of Mae’s popular peer Abi provokes questions - Did she jump? Was she pushed? The sense of time running out, and the brutal psychological impact of knowing that the end is nigh, is masterfully evoked in all its heart-stopping starkness, while the dynamics between the young adult characters are authentically realised. All in all, this near-dystopian thriller has thought-provoking bite.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month July 2021 | A new hilarious adventure for the ever- engaging Anisha and her family. Life in Anisha’s family is never straightforward…This time, the whole lot of them are off to Leicester for a special festival. Luckily, Leicester is also the home of the National Space Centre which Anisha and Milo have always wanted to visit. The Mistry family journey would be a drama in itself but things get much, much more exciting when they get to Leicester and find that the famous, hugely valuable diamond that should be on display as the centre piece of the festival has gone missing. Can Anisha’s granny really be the person who stole it as the police think? Anisha needs her best detective skills to free her granny from suspicion and find the real thieves. Our Kids Reader Review Panel reviewed the second in this series, School's Cancelled - find out what they thought!
A proper, old-fashioned (in the best sense) mystery story, A M Howell’s book poses a series of puzzles for its young protagonist Nancy to solve. It’s 1910 and Halley’s Comet is blazing closer to earth, provoking hysteria amongst some members of the public. It certainly seems to be having a strange effect on Nancy’s mother who suddenly takes her two daughters on a secret visit to their grandfather – the grandfather she’d told them was dead. His Sussex village seems normal but below the surface things are far from happy. As she finds out more, Nancy realises it’s in her hands to heal the village and the family she never knew she had. The story is clever, involving and delightfully atmospheric with the village providing some excellent settings – eerie old houses, gorgeous ballrooms, a dismal prison. With her new friend and associate grocer’s boy Burch, Nancy uncovers lies, deceit and corruption, and learns the power of speaking up.
August 2021 Book of the Month | “Elizabeth North was one of the bravest and strongest women in the entire world. And I am going to tell you why”. Thus readers are introduced to How to Be Brave’s captivating story world in a manner that’s typical of its whimsical all-knowing narrative style. Adding to this, footnotes written in the amusing authorial voice are used to entertaining effect throughout the rip-roaring ride. To begin at the beginning, we are matter-of-factly informed that Elizabeth lived a charmed childhood that left to her muse “how much she loved her life. It was a strange thing for a child to think, but Elizabeth North was a strange child who lived a strange life.” Tragically, Elizabeth’s idyllic days are darkened by the unthinkable - both her parents die and she’s sent to The School of the Good Sisters, where an encounter with a rare duck - the Mallardus Amazonica - sets her on a path she will follow through her life. Skipping forward, we are introduced to Elizabeth’s daughter, Calla. Poor due to Elizabeth’s struggle to make ends meet as a scientist (and her lackadaisical approach to adulting), mother and daughter are dealt an unexpected hand when Elizabeth is invited to the Amazon to find the Mallardus Amazonica, resulting in Calla being sent to The School of the Good Sisters. The school’s old-fashioned quirks and cast of nuns and pupils are a delight. Edie is an especially fabulous creation - in her French-accented words, she’s “excellent at subterfuge and skulduggery”. When Calla uncovers shocking secrets, the adventure swells like the Amazon in rainy season. Given that “if there was a problem in Elizabeth’s life, Calla solved it,” that’s exactly what she sets out to do, in this case enlisting the help of her new friends and a Blessing of Nuns. What a marvellously rollicking story of a resourceful togetherness this is.
Fizzing with friendship and a sense of adventure, while not shirking from (gently) exploring gritty real-life themes (food poverty and online bullying), Ewa Jozefkowicz’s The Cooking Club Detectives is perfectly pitched for Primary age pupils who like to get their teeth into mission-driven stories with heart. Erin and her mum have moved from North London to a new home, where she makes wonderful new friends, but quickly realises the differences between those who have it all and those who have less, such as herself. When Mum loses her job and decides to make a go of her long-held dream to work in her field of passion (cookery), Erin touchingly steps-in by enlisting her new friends to make Mum a cookery blog website, though trolls rear their ugly heads in the comments. At the same time, Erin loves the new Cooking Club she’s joined, but the community centre it’s held in has been sold, so she and her pals (plus detective dog Sausage) set about finding out who’s bought it and - crucially - saving the centre that’s so important to the local community. Pulling together, following your dreams and making a difference - this is a lovely heart-warming story.
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