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Find our latest selection of crime and mystery books, from serious whodunnits to failed comic detectives.
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.
Forget Midsomer, Muddlemoor Village is a proper crime hotspot, especially with the annual Great Village Bake Off approaching. Joe is there for the holidays staying at his Granny’s and cousins Tom and Pip are too. The three children are alert for any kind of suspicious activity and have always suspected granny’s neighbour, former MI6 spy (so she says) Anthea and when Granny’s secret recipe for chocolate fudge layer cake goes missing, they’re immediately on the case. Ruth Doyle has a keen understanding of how children see the world, and an excellent ear for the way they speak too and this lively story is full of honest to goodness fun and adventure. I particularly like Pip – quiet, a thinker, not afraid of breaking rules, and quite often to be found upside down in a handstand. The hunt for the missing recipe unfolds wonderfully and there’s a twist at the end that Agatha Christie would be proud of. Marta Kissi’s illustrations are really lovely too.
Selected for The Book Box by LoveReading4Kids | In their first adventure, Rock and his mystery-solving friends will tackle their first caseload: Why have all the breadcrumbs disappeared? Who on earth is kidnapping bats? And can the pigeons avert a dinner disaster?? Perfect for readers aged 6+ and fans of Pamela Butchart, DogMan, the Naughtiest Unicorn and Hotel Flamingo.
Mina Mistry, primary school pupil and would-be private investigator, is back and ready to tackle another criminal case, assisted as ever by her best friend (and toy), Mr Panda. The new mystery concerns pets, specifically missing pets. First, her friend Holly’s hamster Harriet disappears, then Danny’s toad, then all the animals from the local petshop. What, or even who, could be behind the thefts and why? You can rely on Mina to solve the puzzle! The mystery is convincing and Mina’s accounts both of her detecting and ordinary school life always very lively. It’s an entertaining and readable adventure with just the right mix of real life and Scooby Doo style meddling! If pint-sized detectives are your thing, look out too for Stephan Pastis’ brilliant Timmy Failure books and Serena Patel’s new Anisha Accidental Detective series.
Best mates Connor and Ethan think their dreams have come true when they get to spend their summer holidays on Starville, a gigantic space station. They’re selling ice cream for Ethan’s uncle Nick but what the two really want to be is detectives. Well, before you can say purple tufted grotsnobbler, the boys are chasing villains and even more exciting, working to save Starville when someone sets it on a course to smash into the moon. The story zips along as fast as their borrowed hover-scooter and you won’t believe who’s the evil genius behind the plot to knock Starville off orbit … Drama, excitement and some out of this world characters, Space Detectives has it all, not to mention fabulous illustrations by Dapo Adeola, an extra special treat in a book that really delivers.
January 2021 Debut of the Month | Lesley Parr’s story of evacuees is rich in atmosphere and a sense of place, and uses its wartime setting to explore themes of community, understanding and self-forgiveness. Along with other children at their school, Jimmy and his little brother Ronnie have been sent hundreds of miles away from London to the safety of a small mining town in South Wales, and it couldn’t be further from what they know. Jimmy is determined they won’t stay long, and that the place won’t change him, even as it’s transforming his classmates: Florence Campbell for example, who is free to become someone else, far away from her abusive family. The village has its secrets though, and the discovery of a set of bones in a tree leads Jimmy to solve a decades old mystery and, in the process, to help those living with loss and guilt. The place and its people are carefully and skilfully evoked, with the adults, particularly Jimmy and Ronnie’s new ‘family’ of Aunty Gwen and Uncle Alun the miner, likely to be as fascinating to readers as the younger protagonists. The mystery will certainly keep readers gripped but it’s the characters and the place that will stay with them. Evacuees are a rich source for children’s adventure stories, examples include Michelle Magorian’s classic Goodnight Mister Tom, and Jacqueline Wilson’s more recent Wave Me Goodbye.
Selected for The Book Box by LoveReading4Kids | A whole lot of heart fizzes through this humorous Middle Grade mystery by Adam Baron, the Carnegie-nominated author of Boy Underwater. With masses of mystery, and mix-ups aplenty, it’s a twisty rib-tickling tale of teddy bear detection, with plenty of plot for capable Middle Grade readers to get their teeth into, plus dialogue that’s ideal to have fun with aloud. The lively design adds an extra element too, with lots of capitalised words, well-considered layouts and oodles of exclamations. When Brighton girl Jessica finds a tatty teddy in a river, she has little idea of what craziness it will lead to, and she’s also worried about her dad, who’s lost all his energy and stopped working. Meanwhile, Charlton Athletic obsessed Cymbeline is shocked to discover his house has been burgled. Why on earth were the thieves only interested in his toys? What’s more, Cym’s having to adjust to Mum’s boyfriend and daughters moving in, while his out-of-work actor dad lets him down when he fails to deliver a promised trip to Barcelona’s Camp Nou. Tonnes of twists later, the two families find themselves connected by the teddy bear (Mr Fluffy or Mr Goldy, depending on which family you talk to), a Brighton-Charlton football match and Henry VIII. Readers of nine upwards will giggle at the recognisable muddles of everyday family life (not to mention a spot of sibling strife), while the winding mystery will keep older readers gripped and turning the pages.
Selected for The Book Box by LoveReading4Kids | From award-winning Jon Mayhew comes this book-themed blast of bedlam, replete with puns aplenty and breakneck pace. Despite his name, reluctant hero (and reluctant reader) Kian Reader is not a fan of reading. In fact, “I hate reading. It’s boring,” he declares. “Book are really rubbish…Only losers read books”. Annoyingly for Kian, his mum’s new boyfriend Anthony is campaigning to keep the local library open, jiggling a placard while dressed in a Gruffalo costume in the presence of the mayor and Kian’s super-strict new English teacher. Talking of whom, when Kian is forced to visit the library to do his English homework, he becomes embroiled in a perilous plot after inadvertently ingesting the world’s sole sample of Reader Serum, a powerful potion that gives him super reading powers. What’s more, he’s now wanted by F.A.R.T. (the Fellowship Against Reading Texts), an organisation that’s already hypnotised famous local children’s author Martin Marvello. Alongside Kian’s crazy encounters with dastardly Doctor Badd, I loved the details of family life, and the friendship between Kian and his mates Asif and Prissy. Being such a riotous read, The Spybrarian is a sure-fire way to convince self-professed “Books are boring!” claimants that reading is anything but boring. And, once they’ve enjoyed the outlandish adventures, young readers should head here to download an awesome activity pack.
Fans of the blockbuster crime thrillers like One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus would like no better Christmas treat than this, another novel full of fascinating characters and a plot full of family secrets, jaw-dropping twists and a touch of romance. Narrated in the first person by the three eponymous cousins and occasionally by their parents at the same age, we can see the secrets they are keeping as well as watching the Story story gradually unravel. The original quartet of Story siblings were brought up in the lap of luxury on a glamorous tiny resort island off the East Coast but, not long after the death of their father, they were disinherited by a terse note from their mother “ You know what you did”. Since then, no contact with her, nor each other, so even the Cousins know nothing of each other’s very different lives. Until a mysterious invitation from their grandmother invites them to spend the summer working at the resort and they bond in their determination to find out what caused the rift. What follows is a thoroughly satisfying and skilful unveiling of what has made the Story family the stuff of local legend and what makes the Cousins tick and the unexpected twists surprise the characters as convincingly as the readers. Altogether this is sure to be a book that does not dwell neglected upon shelves but will be in constant demand.
November 2020 Debut of the Month | Nimbly navigating a fine thread between real-world tragedy and elemental inner demons, Richard Lambert’s The Wolf Road is a stunning coming-of-age thriller about a boy’s battle with bereavement, and the wolf that holds the key to his healing. It’s un-put-down-able and emotionally haunting in perfectly balanced measures. Fifteen-year-old Lucas’s life unravels when he discovers his parents were killed in a car crash caused by a dog. In an instant “the world didn’t make sense”, and now he must live with his nan, an “odd woman in purple DMs” (and socially-conscious solicitor) he’s only met twice in his life. Despite his angry protests, Lucas has no choice but to move to Nan’s cottage in the Lake District, certain the offending dog was, in fact, a wolf. It’s not long before wolves infiltrate all aspects of his life - at school he reads The Call of the Wild (a book “about a dog that really wants to be a wolf”). Local TV news reports on a local farmer who believes his livestock is being killed by a wild wolf. And then lupine menace encroaches on Lucas’s reality when he hears and glimpses what must be the wolf. As he wonders whether it’s coming for him, to “finish off the family after Mum and Dad,” he confronts his wildest pains in the wilds of the mountains. While the theme of loss - and Lambert’s inventive handling of it - will chime with readers who loved Patrick Ness’s A Monster Calls, this also has great appeal for fans of emotion-driven adventures, such as Piers Torday’s nature-rich novels. Other plot strands skilfully untangle the complex relationship between Lucas and his Nan. The faltering understandings reached between grandmother and grandson are a joy to witness, as is the bond Lucas forms with Debs, a Sylvia Plath-reading goth-punk.
In a story of magic and ancient beings, Amy Wilson allows us all to dream of what it would be like to have special, elemental powers. Owl has always wanted to know who her father is, but her mother has answered her questions only with folk stories. As she turns 12, the urge to find him is even deeper, as bizarre events disturb Owl’s ordinary teenage life. The truth is strange if wonderful: her father is none other than Jack Frost and Owl, half fay, shares some of his powers and trickster ways. As her father pays the fairy price for his misdemeanours, Owl is in danger too. Mystery, fantasy and gentle romance, this story will cast its magic over young readers and is the perfect winter read. Readers who enjoy stories of magic touching the human world will enjoy Abi Elphinstone’s Dream Snatcher books, Philip Womack’s Darkening Path trilogy, and Deep Water by Lu Hersey.
You could describe friends Lori and Max as oddballs - Lori, the would-be private detective and Max taciturn and reticent except with her dog, Fang – but as the stars of this exciting, funny and heart-warming story they are immensely appealing, the kind of characters you want to spend lots more time with. There are at least two separate storylines in this their second adventure (it’s not an issue if you haven’t read book one), one to do with the theft of Max’s mobile phone, the other involving a book belonging to Lori’s parents, who died when she was just a baby. Both are enthralling and full of surprises, and both reveal more about our two protagonists and make us understand them even better. This is intelligent, top-quality story-telling and writing and highly recommended.