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Find our latest selection of crime and mystery books, from serious whodunnits to failed comic detectives.
June 2021 Debut of the Month | When Isobel Petty is orphaned, she finds herself being taken away from her home in India and sent to live with a distant uncle in England. On board the S.S. Marianna, she witnesses a shocking act - somebody being thrown overboard in the middle in the night. But when the ship's captain insists that nobody is missing, Isobel and her two new reluctant friends must solve two mysteries - the identities of both the murderer and the victim - before they reach England and the culprit has the chance to escape.
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.
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.
April 2021 Book of the Month | Bravo to Jonathan Stroud! With its cast of charismatic characters and extraordinary world-building (think broken Britain with Wild West vibes), The Outlaws Scarlett and Browne is an audacious firecracker. And, in even better news for fans of funny, inventive adventure fiction, this is but the beginning of what’s set to be an extraordinary series. “Britain was a land of ruin…the country was maimed and broken - but full of strange fecundity and strength”. It’s also brimming with the likes of bears, wolves, flesh-eating spear-birds and gruesome cannibal creatures, all of which whip-smart, cuss-uttering Scarlett takes into her swaggering stride. She makes an unforgettable impression from the off: “A slight slim figure in a battered brown coat, weighed down with…all the paraphernalia of a girl who walked the Wilds.” After killing four grown men who’d tried to rob her, Scarlett struts into a bank and proceeds to hold it up (turns out she needs money to repay a debt). On fleeing the scene, Scarlett finds a crashed bus, all its passengers dead but for a lone boy hiding in the toilet. Enter Albert Browne, “awkward, skinny and wide-mouthed, like a frightened skeleton”, and seemingly a piece of powdery chalk to Scarlett’s pungent cheese. Her scathing sarcasm (and Albert’s obliviousness to it) provides many a laugh: “You just holler if I get in your way,” she seethes as he admires a seed pod while she sets about making a fire, cooking a bird and establishing a camp for them, and all while they’re being pursued. But, for all his unworldliness, Albert turns out to have hidden talents. Sensing he might be of use to her after all, Scarlett agrees to help him accomplish his own mission. Albert wants to reach the Free Isles, remnants of London that “don’t have any restrictions on who you are or what you can do. They welcome people who are...different”, unlike the dictatorial High Council of the Faith Houses, which is “desperate to keep the old ways going”, and “on the watch for any kind of deviation.” Trouble is, as their respective pursuers close in, time and space is running out for our unforgettable outlaws. What a story, what characters, and what a wait it will be until the second instalment. I defy any reader not to fall for Scarlett and Albert, and to become gasp-out-loud, laugh-out-loud invested in their quest.
Fleur Hitchcock delivers another scorching crime drama in Waiting for Murder. It’s a baking hot summer and Dan is away from the city and his friends, with his mum on her archaeological dig, where they might just have found the bones of King Harold’s wife, Edith the Fair. But it’s Dan’s discovery of much more recent remains that sparks the adventure, uncovering evidence of treachery and murder and starting a new treasure hunt. The story reaches its climax just as the weather finally breaks, and a torrent of water threatens to sweep everything and everyone away. Full of thrills, twists and surprises, this will keep everyone on the edge of their seats.
If you missed the first book about Walker, here’s a quick catch up: Walker is dog mad, but can’t have one as Mum is allergic. When he sets up as a dog walker, he realises something amazing: he can talk to dogs and they can talk to him. In this episode he and his growing band of dog best friends find themselves up against a ruthless, if not very bright, band of crooks, after money hidden away by corrupt landowner Arlington Wherewithal. Together Walker and the dogs should be able to outwit the baddies but it’s touch and go, and they’ll still have to work out where Arlington hid his ill-gotten gains. The story is action packed, enormously satisfying, and absolute heaven if you love dogs. The book features Rayner’s illustrations throughout and the final pages show you how to draw Walker and Stella the spaniel, an added treat.
March 2021 Book of the Month | 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 | This wonderfully absurd book starts with Rock Pigeon – who loves dressing up in disguises! Grandpouter Pigeon turns up on his farm to recruit Rock to a wonderfully mixed group of pigeons who all fight animal-based crimes! This is just a wonderful series of three odd crimes the group set out to solve – where are all the breadcrumbs, who is kidnapping bats, and can they stop a dinner disaster? These are fast moving tales, highly illustrated with black and white illustrations that move the stories along at a madcap pace. Young emerging readers will power through the book giving them confidence and a huge slice of fun as they read ‘a proper chapter book’. Funny books for this age group are always very welcome – and this one (the start of a series) – is so well done I am sure children will lap them up. The added bonus is a simple guide at the end of the book to the different sorts of pigeons who create the crime solving gang.
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.
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.