Review: #MaryShelley by David Vandermeulen, Daniel Casaneve, and Patrice Larcenet #NetGalley

My thanks to NetGalley and Europe Comics for a review copy of this book.

This graphic novel is the second volume on Shelley’s life (I read and reviewed the first a few months ago-review here), and written from the point Mary Shelley takes more of a centre stage in the ‘story’, picks up in 1814, where the first volume left off. Percy had fallen in love with Mary Godwin, and accompanied by her sister Claire Clairmont were about to elope. As this story opens, the three travel to Europe, struggling with money troubles, and living an itinerant life, and seeking adventure. In Europe, first Claire and then Mary and Percy join Byron (that is they take a house next door, and visit constantly). Here also joined by Byron’s doctor Polidori, the little group enjoys themselves with conversations and walks until the weather turns inclement. And so comes the famous time when each of them takes on the challenge of writing a horror tale—we see Polidori narrating his Vampyre, and then Mary being inspired to write Frankenstein—the task more or less taking possession of her. Each of the group’s complicated relationships and moralities are also explored. But then the story takes a rather odd turn, which made me stop and actually look up what was happening—instead of continuing as a biography, it moves into the world of fiction, and more specifically Mary Shelley’s The Last Man, the devastation caused by the plague and the depths to which people can fall even amidst such disaster, with the Shelleys and Byron taking on a central role among the last few survivors.

I really enjoyed the first volume of this series and thought it a very cute way to getting to know a little about Shelley’s life and work. This second volume opens the same way, and up until the time in Villa Diodati, where all of them composed or began to compose their horror stories remains on this track, and this part I enjoyed very much, as much as I did the first volume. In fact, the composition of Frankenstein, etc. was a part of this book that I was looking forward to very much and I was glad that the authors included it in detail, and went a little into the works, and also tried to imagine the kind of conversations the Shelleys, Byron, and Polidori might have had in their time there. But then the story’s turn towards the fictional gave it a very weird feel which while interesting in a way didn’t make any sense to me in this book, especially considering the way the two volumes proceeded from the start. If the authors had chosen to take a fictional path entirely or from the start combined fact and fiction, it might have still worked but when one is reading something biographical, even if done with humour as these books have been (the art work too is caricature-like, which was fun), one kind of expects it to continue that way, and it is a touch disappointing when it doesn’t. I enjoyed the first part of the book a lot, and while the second was done imaginatively, and was interesting, it just didn’t seem to ‘fit’. 3 stars for this one!  

The book released on 17 April 2019 in English!


Review: Mr Finchley Discovers His England by Victor Canning #NetGalley #Humour #MrFinchley

My thanks to NetGalley and Farrago Books for a digital review copy of this book.

First published in 1934, Mr Finchley Discovers His England is the first in a series of (I think) three books featuring Mr Finchley, a forty-five-year-old bachelor, who works as a solicitor’s clerk in London. When one of his bosses Mr Bardwell dies, and the office is taken over by his partner Mr Sprake, there comes an unexpected change in Mr Finchley’s life. For the first time since Mr Finchley was employed, he finds himself getting a three-week holiday. So of course, as holidays must usually be, he books himself into a hotel at Margate. But when he is waiting to catch his train, a man asks him to watch his Bentley, which Mr Finchley agrees to do but he falls asleep in the process. When his eyes next open, the car is being driven, away and Mr Finchley finds himself kidnapped. He is unnerved but decides to take the experience as an adventure, one he could have never had in his normal life. From here, he manages to make his escape. And with this starts a holiday completely unlike what Mr Finchley could have ever imagined. Mr Finchley traipses across the country, soaking in nature, meeting interesting people and having a series of unforeseen adventures. He falls in with tramps, artists, travellers, and gypsies, ends up taking jobs at a fair and selling petrol, being mistaken for a vagrant and a lunatic, is almost strangled, plays cricket and even takes to smuggling! His adventures change his life completely, so much so that there is likely to be a change in his everyday life too.

This was such a fun, charming read, with gentle humour and a very likeable set of characters. Something like Three Men in a Boat but without the slapstick. What I really liked about Mr Finchley as a character was how open he was to each new adventure, to each new experience, and how ready he was to enjoy every thing that came his way, irked sometimes (only initially), but never complaining or grumbling much, rather relishing every moment. The people he meets have interesting stories (unlike Mr Finchley’s own which is rather ordinary untill this adventure begins), some sad, some simply unusual, and while not all are honest and straightforward, they certainly are far from the ordinary. I also loved how away from grey London, Mr Finchley gets to really immerse himself in nature, whether it be the birds around, or the sea, or the moors, there is a certain peace about the places he spends time at which transfers itself to the reader as well. My first acquaintance with Mr Finchley and Victor Canning’s work was really delightful. Looking forward to more in the future.    

The book was published on 18 April 2019!

Review: Arnica, the Duck Princess by Ervin Lázár #NetGalley

My thanks to NetGalley and Steerforth Press/Pushkin Press for a digital review copy of this book.

This is an English translation of a Hungarian classic children’s tale, first published in 1981 and now being printed by Pushkin Press. The translator is Anna Bentley and the book has been illustrated by Jacueline Molnár.

King Tirunt lives in a palace by a round lake, a palace with thirty-six towers and three hundred windows. He is a just ruler, punishing only those who deserve it, and taking precautions (very great ones) against giving orders when he is in a temper, that is to say, he ensures they aren’t followed and locks himself in his throne room while he is in a temper. With him lives his daughter Arnica, a very special princess, “so sweet and gentle that when she smile[s], wolves and bears forget their fierceness”. King Tirunt wishes that Arnica would marry the person she loves and does not mind who he is or where he is from. Into their lives comes just such a person, Poor Johnny. Poor Johnny has nothing except the clothes on his back and is “footloose and fancy-free”—not only that, he wants nothing either which means that the Witch of a Hundred Faces fails to entrap him (she must enslave a new person every seven years to retain her magical powers), despite the untold wealth and riches she offers. Making his escape (she does pursue him with magic, when he simply walks away) Johnny meets Arnica and they fall in love. But the King wants to be sure before he gives his consent, and makes them wait six months. When this period is up and they are awaiting Johnny’s arrival, the witch acts, casting a spell, as a result of which it turns out that at any given time, either Arnica or Johnny must be a duck. Now they much find a way out, and they don’t mind whether both are ducks or humans but they want to be the same thing at the same time. So off they set to seek the Seven-headed Fairy, the only one who can free them of the curse. Along the way, they meet various people, each with their own oddities, and problems, and change their lives as they move on.

The story is told in third person, and off and on, there is also some dialogue between the narrator and the person he is telling the story to. This gives it the feel of a traditional storytelling style.

I found this to be a really pleasant and cute read. This is a fairly short (just 96 pages) book and a great deal of fun. Being a children’s classic, there are hidden messages of course, but it isn’t preachy or forced down your throat. All of the people they encounter, in fact, find that the solution to their problems lies within themselves, just a change of attitude or approach is called for. And that is what the book tries to tell its readers. Also, the story/stories are told in an amusing way, some episodes more than others, like the Witch’s frustration when Johnny fails to be lured by treasure or the story of Tig-Tag the robber, which was very good fun. I also liked that despite the various little troubles Arnica and Johnny fall into on their adventure, there is no melodrama or exaggeration. Arnica and Johnny are very likeable; Johnny, in fact, reminded me a little of a Grimm’s character in the story ‘Hans in Luck’ where too, the ‘hero’ attaches little to material possessions.

The book has some really colourful illustrations. These reminded me (the style) somewhat of the illustrations for Dunno (by Boris Kalushin) though the ones in these book aren’t as delicate. I loved the colours, also the patterns used, the animals, flowers, trees, etc. but while I didn’t much care for the human beings (illustrations) in the book at the start (they felt a little clumpy), even these kind of grew on me as I read on.   (See cover above)

A charming and cute read.

Have you read this book or do you plan to? If you have, how did you like it? Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

Review: Golden Pavements by Pamela Brown

My thanks to Steerforth Press/Pushkin Press and NetGalley for a review copy of this book.

Golden Pavements is the third in the Blue Door series of books by Pamela Brown set around a group of children (three sets of siblings) interested in theatre, who are now training to be professional actors, and aspire to make their amateur theatre, the Blue Door Theatre, in their hometown of Fenchester, professional. While I say this is the third book, the events of this book start before the second book, Maddy Alone, and continue past the events of that book. So when we start, Nigel, the eldest has spent some time at the British Actors Guild Dramatic School while the others (with the exception of Maddy who is still twelve) have just come in for their first term. Soon enough they are absorbed in theatre life, with things to be learnt and shows to be put on, but alongside also having to deal with the reality of living life on their own on meagre allowances, and having to penny pinch or take up jobs (even against rules) to make up where they’re falling short. We see them in their time at the Academy, their tours and summer jobs, the time that Maddy joins them, and finally as they leave the Academy and set off to set up their own repertory company. At times, we are following all of the children, while at others, one or more of them as they take up jobs (like Lyn and Vicky serving as assistant stage managers in a small repertory company for ten weeks). They have fun but the work is hard as well, and some lessons of life they must learn the hard way.

This instalment in the series focused on the experiences of young actors (or producers, or stage managers, or anyone connected with the theatre) when they first begin to translate their dreams into reality. The children’s amateur productions or experience helps them but working in a professional setting is a completely different cup of tea. While this doesn’t discourage any of our young heroes and heroines, they experience both highs and lows, good performances and bad ones, tough days and golden ones. Probably written on the basis of the author’s own experiences, this feels very real (But she managed to achieve this effect with the first book in the series as well, which she wrote when 14 or 15, what had me especially in awe was that she could out forth the ‘grown ups’’ point of view very fairly as well)—the kind of experiences they undergo, their hopes, aspirations, decisions that they take, and I had great fun going along with them. I haven’t read very many books in a theatre setting, but this one while not going into every little detail gives one a fairly good idea of the workings of the process, of the hard work that goes into it, and of the fact that despite all of this, the result may not always be a happy one. I also found all of the children very likeable (as in the previous instalments), and even when they don’t take the right decisions on everything or are veering off course, one can’t fault them for it because these are mistakes that anyone can (and would probably) make. This was a fast-paced, endearing, and absorbing read, and I enjoyed myself very very much reading it.

Pamela Brown was a British writer, actor, and producer of children’s television programmes. The town of Fenchester is based on her own town of Colchester. Very passionate about the theatre, she and her friends put up plays as children, and she went on to train at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (using her earnings from The Swish of the Curtain).

This book was first published in 1947, and is being republished by Pushkin Press on 25 June 2019.

p.s. My reviews of The Swish of the Curtain and Maddy Alone are here and here. I will also be reviewing book 4, Blue Door Venture via NetGalley soon!

Review: Ever Alice by H.J. Ramsay

My thanks to NetGalley and Red Rogue Press for a review copy of this book.

Ever Alice is pretty much a sequel to the Alice books taking place when Alice is fifteen. Alice has never ceased to believe in Wonderland and those she met there, but in the “real” world, this has meant that people, her parents and sister included, do not think her “normal” but “mad”. As a consequence, she is now undergoing treatment in a mental facility, dreaming of returning to her family one day. On the other side, we see the Queen of Hearts, here Rosamund, who is turning more and more ruthless as time passes, and beheading whoever irks her in one way or other, their innocence being of no consequence. The White Rabbit (here Ralph) comes to Alice and seeks her help in doing away with Rosamund. Alice does not wish to kill anyone but does want to escape, even more now that she is going to be subjected to new treatments to “cure” her at a different facility. Once in Wonderland, Alice finds herself placed as one of the Queen’s ladies alongside Bess (the Duchess with the pig baby), who hates her, and Sabrina who wants to be her friend. She also finds herself falling in love with the Prince of Hearts, Thomas. But plots to do away with the Queen are very much underway, and Alice is a part of them whether or not she wants to do any actual killing, while the Queen on her side is trying to secure her throne by getting rid of Constance, the Queen of Spades, and anyone else that she is in a mind to. How does Alice fare amongst these plots and counter plots?

I loved that so many of the characters that we are familiar with from the Alice books (this is probably the first sequel/retelling that I’m reading) are there in the book with “new” names—Ralph the white rabbit, Sir William (the Hatter), and Charles (the Dodo) besides the Duchess with the pig baby (Bess) and others (With the new names, it took some time to get my head around how was who). There are also other characters that are new but springing from the books as well as those familiar from outside, such as Humpty Dumpty’s cousin (Marco Polo), Twiddle Dee and Twiddle Dum’s children, Lady Godiva, the Frog Princess, and Marilyn Montagu, the actress! The story for the most part switches between Alice’s viewpoint and Rosamund’s (though in third person) and so we see the other characters through their stories.

This was a fun sequel to Alice which for the most part keeps the humour and whimsical tone that one would associate with Alice (though it didn’t have perhaps what I would call Alice-y lines). I loved how the author created a skittles game (with armadillos and penguins) on the same lines as the original croquet, but very imaginative and fun all the same; and there is also another trial that Alice has to face. The plot was fairly interesting (though the Alice being brought back to kill the Queen bit is, may be, similar to the recent Alice films), and I liked how it played out with a fair number of twists and surprises along the way. (Even with characters who we “know”, things don’t turn out as we expect). For me though, after the first few pages, it somewhat began to drag for a bit (in the sense that I was enjoying it but not to the point that I couldn’t put it down or wait to get back to it), but then a little after the half way point, it once again picked up pace and I wanted to read on to see how things turn out for all the characters. The book has both light and dark moments—one point/aspect at the end was a little too dark for me, but it was definitely something that I didn’t see coming, and kind of left me with an eerie feeling.

I enjoyed reading this book very much, but not as much I expected to, so this was about a 3.5 stars for me.

Review: A Country Rivalry by Sasha Morgan

My thanks to NetGalley and Aria for a review copy of this one.

A Country Rivalry is set in Treweham village in the Cotswalds where we “meet” and follow the stories of numerous characters—the lord of the manor Tobias Cavendish-Blake, recently married to Megan; his younger brother Sebastian who is seeing success on the stage as Richard III but had seen unhappiness in his personal life; Dylan a jockey who is starting his own training yard with a girl he loves Flora but has to face his playboy past; Finula chef at the Templar, the local inn and also daughter of its proprietor, who is also dealing with heartbreak; and Gary and Tracy Belcher, lottery winners who have made Treweham their home after finding that their fortune means that their old friends only value them for their money, and while moving has meant getting away from this, they haven’t yet found a new “home” at Treweham. A documentary-film maker, Marcus Devlin (who has met Finula before) decides to make a film on the countryside and Treweham specifically (he has his reasons), and the arrival of the crew throws the lives of all its residents into disarray as the crew Marcus and Viola (his researcher, with an agenda of her own) are set on showing the worst side of village life, especially the aristocracy. On the other side, their arrival brings hope of love to some of the characters, Finula, and Sebastian, specifically.

This was a pleasant enough read for me (although it did turn out different from what I was expecting from the description (second time this month)—there was no cover at the time I requested the book). The characters are pretty straight-forward, though they each have their problems and secrets, loneliness, heartbreak, illness, revenge etc. among them, they aren’t complicated in themselves (but then, this is popular fiction). But that said, I did find myself getting interested in their stories, and wanting to know how things would turn out for each of them. From the beginning one does know that this is a feel-good sort of book, so things will turn out right certainly, but I still liked seeing how that would happen. The characters were also all fairly likeable except the one/s who aren’t supposed to be, but also they are more or less “perfect” as far as appearance goes even if not in their natures. I also liked that the resolution of everything was not too melodramatic (just a touch). But there were parts of this book that read like a cheesy romance which made me cringe a bit—these I felt could have been done much more subtly. Also there were some parts of the book (not very many, but still) that made me feel as if I’m reading a sequel where previous events are being recapped, which I don’t think is the case, so possibly these could have been written differently as well. Overall, this was a light-hearted read, pleasant, and one I would have enjoyed much more if it weren’t for some aspects (the cheesy bits specifically).  

  #Acountryrivalry #NetGalley #BookReview

Review: #ThePorpoise by Mark Haddon

My thanks to Penguin Random House UK and NetGalley for a review copy of this book.

Part of the description of this book on NetGalley was this:

“A newborn baby is the sole survivor of a terrifying plane crash.

She is raised in wealthy isolation by an overprotective father. She knows nothing of the rumours about a beautiful young woman, hidden from the world.

When a suitor visits, he understands far more than he should. Forced to run for his life, he escapes aboard The Porpoise, an assassin on his tail…”

Reading this, the book sounded pretty interesting, according to me, perhaps a retelling or modern version of the Tempest, but turns out I didn’t pay enough attention to the last part, and got the wrong Shakespeare play. This is a retelling or version of one, but the play in question is Pericles. But because of the wrong assumption I started with, my reading experience turned out to be a little strange (the book is a little strange actually), which started on an interesting note, then got to a point where I wasn’t sure I wanted to continue, and then ended with me actually pretty much enjoying the book quite a bit.

When the story starts, we meet Phillipe who loses his much beloved wife Maja in a plane accident, leaving behind their baby. Phillipe (who is very wealthy) is devastated and retreats from society with the child, but his affection for the baby, Angelique who reminds him of Maja takes a dark turn and he crosses all lines. [This was the point at which, despite my enjoying the writing, I was considering not continuing the story. But I am glad I did.] Then a young man, Darius, whose father was connected by business to Phillipe decides to visit them on the pretext of selling some art, but actually to catch a glimpse of Angelique whose beauty is much talked of in society. But when he realises that something is wrong in the household, he finds his own life in danger. Barely managing to escape he gets aboard a vessel, the Porpoise, suddenly Darius and the reader find that we’re transitioning into another story and another time, as we begin to follow Pericles as he lands at Tarsus, rescuing it, Dionyza, and Cleon from their troubles, only to be led on to Pentapolis where he meets (in this version) Chloe the daughter of Simonides, the king, their marriage, and child, how all three are separated and what befalls them then. Alongside we keep coming back to the present and to Angelique who finds her escape in books, and a third thread to the story is also introduced but I’ll leave you to find out what that is for yourself.

As I said, when I started the book, I was enjoying the writing but then when it got into aspects that were distasteful and disturbing for me to say the least, I was beginning to even consider giving up. But luckily I didn’t, and when it got on to Pericles’ tale, which really forms most part of the book, I began to enjoy the book quite a bit. Haddon has (as we can see from his sources at the end) gone into different versions of this story, a collaboration between George Wilkins and Shakespeare (in the Shakespeare version), and come up with his own. It was only when I got the Pericles connection and read up the basic plot of Pericles (I haven’t read the Shakespeare play), this began to make a little more sense to me (something like what happened with reading The Sisters of the Winter Wood last year, when I had the idea of Goblin Market in my mind, then the book began to make far more sense)—also I realised how the modern part of the story fits into the whole scheme (what it’s role was in the whole plot, even in the original, isn’t very clear). I also really liked the way Haddon ended the Pericles part of the story, very subtly done (and different from the Shakespeare version). The third thread, I am not very sure I understood the role of in the scheme of things, in a sense also is built around the aspect of justice, or having to face the Furies for the wrongs one has committed. I enjoyed the writing of the book for the most part, and the plot too kept me hooked because I wasn’t sure where the various threads would lead, and how the whole thing would shape up. So overall, it turned out to be a pretty interesting read, but it still loses a star from me one because of the disturbing plot aspects which made sense after I got the Pericles connection but didn’t become any the more acceptable (or less disturbing), and also because I really wasn’t able to make sense of the whole scheme of the plot (the third plot thread, and also another part of the story). But good reading if one can stick with it, or the subject matter doesn’t put you off too much (particularly since this is just a small part of the story).

#NetGalley #BookReview #Shakespeare #Retelling

Review: #RenéeStone 1: Murder in Abyssinia #NetGalley #GraphicNovel #HistoricalFiction

My thanks to NetGalley and Europe Comics for a review copy of this book.

This is a graphic novel and first in series featuring Renée Stone, author of detective fiction, who arrives in Ethiopia (then, Abyssinia) along with a number of other “hand-picked Europeans” in October 1930 to witness the coronation of the last Emperor Haile Selassie I. As she is getting off the train after a twenty-hour journey, she meets archaeologist-epigraphist John Malowan, who is immediately smitten by her. She herself is interested in his friend/travelling companion, Theziger, a dashing explorer. Once there, she also bumps into a critic and author Graham Gray (obviously, a play on Graham Greene, even down to his book “No Reply from Istanbul”), who seems to enjoy bringing up the more painful aspects of her life. Meanwhile, John takes her to meet his family (who think she is his wife), and there she is given a Mesopotamian cylinder, belonging to John’s grandfather, Hormuzd Rassam, also an archaeologist. This is just the beginning of an adventure as it is soon clear that there are some sinister elements after John, to do with his family and especially his father, who seems to have been a smuggler/dealer in artefacts. This takes them to an elephant sanctuary and to Lalibela, where at 8,200 feet above sea level, a replica of Jerusalem had been built, and puts them in a situation where they do not know whom to trust. With John being quite a scatterbrain, it is up to Renée to take charge and get them to safety.

I chose to read this one since the description made it sound very much like the characters were based (loosely) on Agatha Christie and Max Mallowan, a successful detective novelist and an archaeologist coming together to solve a mystery. While I was expecting this to be somewhat of a whodunit, it didn’t turn out to be one, but was more on the lines of a thriller of sorts in an archaeological setting, with elements of mystery and murder. I liked that the book incorporates a real historical event, the coronation of Haile Selassie and historical characters—Hormuzd Rassam was real, and I also enjoyed learning about Lalibela, also a real location. The concept of the story was interesting, and I liked (as I usually do) the archaeology setting, and the fact that this turns into a quest for a lost treasure (which will continue in the next volume). Also, I liked how the book based its characters on Christie and her Husband and brings in Graham Greene (though I don’t think there’s more than a basic similarity).  While I found the story enjoyable, it (and the characters) somehow didn’t grab me as much as I had thought from the description that they would. Still, this was a quick read with a subject and setting that I enjoy, and the fact that the next leg of the adventure will take us to Mesopotamia, certainly makes me want to pick up the next volume.

Review: #MaddyAlone by Pamela Brown #NetGalley

My thanks to Steerforth Press/Pushkin Press and NetGalley for a review copy of this book.

Maddy Alone is the second book in Pamela Brown’s Blue Door series. (Find my review of the first book, The Swish of the Curtain here). This one was first published in 1945 (the author must have been just out of her teens at this point), and is being brought out again by Pushkin Press. In the first book, seven children, Sandra, Nigel, Jeremy, Bulldog, Lyn, Vickie and Maddie set up their own theatre company in Fenchester, where they live—they put up shows (from Shakespeare to their own plays) during the holidays and for different occasions, and finally manage to convince their parents to send them to drama school. In Maddy Alone, all the children have gone to drama school except Maddy who is now twelve but still too young to join them. Working (not very hard) at school, she feels it is unfair that they get to go to study drama while she has to study arithmetic (or in her words, or something like them, about Mr. A, Mr. B and Mr. C, who dig wells). She is excited when the holidays approach for all the others will be back and they can put on a show but it turns out that only Sandra is coming home while the rest are to stay back in London where they are needed for a show. This naturally disappoints her some more, especially since even Sandra when she’s there is more interested in going shopping with their mother. But some excitement is in store for Maddy when a film crew comes into Fenchester to shoot a historical film, and Maddy finds herself the leading lady! Maddy becomes a film star alright but also remains Maddy, able at most times to get her own way, and to get people to do what she wants, and up to plenty of mischief in the process.

This was a really quick read, much shorter than the first book but still very good fun. This time, as I already wrote, the story pretty much focuses on Maddy. One can relate to her feeling of being left out of things (of all the excitement, so to speak) because of her age, and her inability to understand/accept that the others had also got to go to school as well, but at times, at least initially, she did also come across as a tad more childish than I liked. But as things move along, and she gets her big opportunity, I also found myself appreciating how she did stay grounded and normal despite all the attention that was coming her way, and the possibility of fame—she is excited by things that are happening and not so very interested in regular school life, but doesn’t acquire airs or always want to dress up or play film star. In fact, quite the opposite, she is the characteristic Maddy “bullying” if I can call it that more than one person (including a gruffy old peer) to get what she wants, questioning things that are not to her liking (even if to means giving up the opportunities she has), and worried about letting the other Blue Doors down if she doesn’t do well enough. She learns a thing or two in the process but essentially remains the same mischievous girl. It was good fun reading of her adventures and antics (which at one point reminded me of the Family at One End Street), and of Mrs Potter-Smith making a nuisance of herself as always, and I can’t wait to pick up the next one and see what the children get up to next.

Pamela Brown, who started this series when she was just in her teens (13 according to Wikipedia; the first book was published when she was 16), was a writer, actress and television producer, and like the children in the books put on plays with her friends when a child.

The book comes out on 14 May 2019.

Review: Murder at the Museum by Lena Jones

My thanks to NetGalley and Harper Collins UK Children’s for a review copy of this book.

Murder at the Museum is the second in the Agatha Oddly series of books, a children’s series. Agatha Oddlow is thirteen and a very busy thirteen-year-old indeed. She is a detective and has been one for as long as she can remember, and any time a mystery piques her interest, she simply has to look into it. She is a great fan of Agatha Christie, her namesake, and especially of Poirot. In this one, the case she works on is a murder at the British Museum—one of the staff members has been stabbed for no apparent reason, and the only artefact missing is one of little value. So robbery was obviously not the motive. Agatha also attends the prestigious St Regis school as a scholarship student, where her friends are Liam and Brianna, who also help with her investigations. It helps that Brianna has her own chemistry lab at home and can run various tests. [Brianna was a member of the “Chic Clique”, a typical popular girl, but is now friends with Liam and Agatha, with whom she can be herself.] And if that wasn’t enough for a thirteen-year-old, Agatha is also awaiting tests to become a member of the Gatekeepers Guild, a secret organisation that works to keep London (in fact the country) safe, and has access to a network of tunnels and passageways under the city which can get them anywhere. Her mother was a star member, and died in somewhat mysterious circumstances which Agatha wants to get to the bottom of. Oh, and to add to all of that, Agatha’s father seems to have a secret too! All of this together makes for an action packed story where all these threads move along together to create a fun and exciting read.

I read this book without having read the first one, and while reading them in order would have made things a little clearer in terms of the background and the Gatekeepers Guild, not doing so didn’t interfere with the enjoyment of the story too much. Agatha herself I thought was a very likeable character, with a good deal of spunk, and not too much respect for the rules. The story is told in first person by Agatha. Though she is a fan of Christie, the way her mind works (sort of like the Mind Palace, which if I remember right is from the Sherlock TV series) and the case itself reminded me much more of Sherlock Holmes than Poirot. Some of what how she goes about solving her case also reminded me of Enid Blyton’s Findouters books (disguises and such). Liam and Brianna seem pretty likeable too, but I didn’t feel I got to see enough of them or at least them in action as much as we do (and obviously so) Agatha. The mystery itself, since I had Sherlock Holmes on my mind was something I could guess, the what at least, but still it was good fun. With the thread of her mother’s case continuing on, and of course another mystery to solve, this is a series I will definitely enjoy exploring. Till the next one comes, I still have the first to read. Great fun.

This book comes out on 7th March 2019!