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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 | 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.
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.
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!
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.
July 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.
June 2021 Debut of the Month | Inspired by The Secret Garden and the stylistic elegance of the golden age of children’s literature, Ella Risbridger’s The Secret Detectives radiates historic charisma and the allure of engaging self-determining characters. What’s more, it’s a rip-roaring adventure that’s guaranteed to charm the socks off fans of Robin Stevens and Katherine Rundell, while keeping them on the very edge of their seats. In a classic set-up, after finding herself orphaned, eleven-year-old Isobel Petty is plucked from her home outside Calcutta to live in England with a distant uncle. Pondering her future, Isobel declares, “England sounded very cold and unpleasant, and her uncle, worse” - not the best of starts. Life aboard the S.S. Marianna, in the charge of Mrs Colonel Hartington-Davis, is an irritation, not least due to her charge’s exasperating daughter, Letitia. “If you’re not a native and you’re not English, what are you?” she demands of Isobel. Then, while despairing of having to spend three long weeks at sea, Isobel witnesses someone being thrown overboard. When the captain insists no one is missing, Isobel sets about solving a double mystery - the identity of the culprit, and their victim. Isobel’s wit and determination are immensely appealing (as is her straight-thinking, straight-talking aspect), and I especially loved the ebb and flow dynamics between Isobel and her fellow (initially reluctant) co-investigators. In short, this is a perfectly-pitched history mystery, possibly best enjoyed by torchlight with a stack of fortifying ginger biscuits to hand. The LoveReading LitFest invited Ella to the festival to talk about The Secret Detectives. You can view the event by subscribing to the LitFest programme for as little as £6 per month - or you can pay per view. For just £2 you can see Ella in conversation with Paul Blezard, discussing her exciting debut children's book inspired by The Secret Garden. Check out a preview of the event here
June 2021 Debut of the Month | Caroline O'Donoghue’s All Our Hidden Gifts is an accomplished debut - the first in what’s set to be an exhilarating quartet exploring friendship, love, responsibility, and the repercussions of supernatural gifts. Thrilling, funny, and tingling with the intrigue of ancient magic, tarot cards, and a troubling disappearance, it’s a multi-layered, myth-infused inclusive mystery that will have fans of edgy contemporary YA utterly enthralled. Witty, endearingly self-effacing Maeve (“if I think I’ll get a laugh for it, I’ll do it”), goes to a posh private school in Ireland. Having driven away her best friend Lily in an attempt to find popularity, she’s accepted her lot in life as an ungifted individual. All that changes, though, when she finds an old pack of tarot cards in school and becomes the centre of attention after discovering a gift for delivering uncannily accurate readings. Maeve’s fate switches yet again when she finds a mysterious card in the pack - the menacing Housekeeper - and then Lily vanishes. Reeling with mystery, drama and real-life issues, this tackles themes of intolerance, bigotry and justice with timely, thought-provoking dynamism. What’s more, it’s an absolute page-turner.
The Branford Boase prizewinning author has produced another winner with his second book. This is the thrilling story of Queenie de la Cruz, an ordinary girl who happens to be a big fan of world’s most popular fizzy drink. When a bottle washes up at her feet on the beach near her run-down house, this is not unusual- the beach is so covered with rubbish she hardly notices it. But this bottle contains the top-secret recipe for her favourite drink. Priceless information that the big corporation wants back at any cost! The way they manipulate the media and instigate a world wide search for Queenie is genuinely scary and thought provoking. While on the run Queenie comes to realise a lot about the world and the threats it faces from big business and consumerism. She also realises the value of friendship, finds her courage to stand up for what is right and that some things are more important than money. The suspense filled plot will keep readers guessing and the powerful underlying environmental message will strike home. A story which, like his debut novel Kick, looks at the darker side of consumerism and big business and its worldwide affects, but this is so successfully wrapped up in a really great story that this will be a really popular read as well as a valuable discussion starter.
Adventurous and inventive, this second book in Patience Agbabi’s The Leap Cycle is a highly readable time travel adventure that shares information about Black British history and inclusive representations of autism through a zippy page-turner of a story. Endearing, brave thirteen-year-old Elle Bibi-Imbele is a Leapling - one of the rare people born on the 29th February, who’s all the rarer since she also has The Gift of being to leap through time. And beyond that, she’s also an Infinite: “I LOVE being an Infinite. The Infinites are a youth group who fight crimes on the timeline for a better, greener future”. The story begins when an Intercalary International school trip to the Museum of the Past, the Present and the Future goes awry when the museum’s Infinity-Glass vanishes. Worse still, Elle’s friend MC ² is arrested for the theft of this extra special exhibit - it was “purchased by Dr Johnson, the famous lexicographer, writer of dictionaries, and given as a present to his young black servant, Francis Barber”. Naturally it falls to The Infinites to solve the mysterious case of the missing Infinity-Glass, and during the course of their investigation Elle and co whizz back to Dr Johnson’s London. On arrival, she feels uncomfortable, and it suddenly hits her that “they’re staring because I’m black…I wonder how many black people live in London in 1752 compared to 2021?” On learning that Dr Johnson had given Francis a safe haven from enslavement, Elle realises that slavery happened not only in the Caribbean and America, but also in Britain - “maybe that’s why that couple were staring so hard at me earlier - they wanted to BUY me. I could be in terrible danger!” With menace encroaching from every angle, Elle must muster all her strength and skills to save her friend, to save the day, and the future.
Jane Austen Investigates | ‘The life of a clergyman’s daughter in rural Hampshire was disappointingly full of duties, and there were few things for an adventurous girl to do. This was why Jane always considered it fortunate to have been involved in a carriage accident. Without that disaster she would never have met the Abbey ghost.’ An exciting middle-grade historical mystery inspired by Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen's first novel.