Tag Archives: Detective stories

The Secret Key (Agatha Oddly: #1) – Lena Jones



Harper Collins

ISBN: 9780008211837

ISBN 10: 0008211833

Imprint: HarperCollins – GB

June 2018

List Price: 14.99 AUD

Here’s a brilliant new girl detective series for all your lovers of this ever popular genre and this one is for slightly older girls. How can anyone resist someone named after the Queen of detective fiction herself? Agatha Oddlow is thirteen years old and her mother raised her on a steady diet of detective novels, logic and puzzles before she died. Agatha lives with her dad, who is head warden at Hyde Park gardens, in a quaint cottage in the grounds of the garden. They are managing on their own pretty well though Agatha is less than impressed with posh school St Regis, to which she won a scholarship.  She is far more interested in pursuing mysteries, real or imagined, often to the detriment of her school behaviour.  Along with her best friend Liam Lau,  Oddlow Investigations maintains that ‘no case is too odd’ for their sleuthing partnership and Agatha’s many imaginary conversations with her hero, Hercule Poirot, convince her that she is exactly the right type to be a detective.

So clearly when she witnesses a hit-and-run in Hyde Park which is swiftly followed by a terrible disaster with London’s water supply, Agatha is thrilled that her biggest chance yet has appeared. The thick red sludge which has usurped London’s fresh water supply appears to be a problem with no solution. Certainly it has the scientists baffled. But Agatha is determined to get to the bottom of the issue as she begins to connect the dots of the hit-and-run victim, a boastful business magnate who just happens to be launching a water purification venture, a strange key left behind by her mum and some very mysterious tunnels underneath London, where she just happens to discover her mother’s bicycle – the one which her mum was supposedly riding when she was struck by a car and killed.

This is loads of fun and has the many twists and turns that young readers will relish. I look forward to the subsequent episodes which are apparently on their way to us.

Thoroughly recommended for would-be detectives from around ten years upwards.

Shadow of the Centaurs- Saviour Pirotta



January 2019


ISBN: 9781472940254
Imprint: Bloomsbury Education

RRP: $14.99


This is the fourth in this series but my first foray into the ancient world of scribe Nico and his slave friend Thrax who have become somewhat adept in solving most peculiar mysteries but it certainly won’t be the last. I loved the unravelling of the problem/s, the humour throughout, the characters and the revelations of everyday life in Ancient Greece.

Nico and Thrax along with all the other citizens of Athens are eagerly anticipating the imminent festival of Anthesteria (similar to All  Hallows’ Eve) with its accompanying spookiness and possibility of spirits roaming – oh, and lavish decadent feasting.

But before the boys can even begin to relax and enjoy the festivities they are confronted with the spectre of the Society of the Centaurs, a group dedicated to the destruction of Athens and all it represents.

Readers will find this very engaging with loads of humour and intrigue and despite themselves will learn much about life in ancient times.

A hugely enjoyable read well worth promoting to your readers aged from around eight years upwards.


Fabio the World’s Greatest Flamingo Detective: The Case of the Missing Hippo – Laura James




March 2018
ISBN: 9781408889312
Imprint: Bloomsbury Children’s Books

RRP  : AU$12.99

Like many others I am addicted to great detective fiction be it books or TV shows and also like many others my favourite sleuth is the one and only Hercule Poirot (as in David Suchet not – you know who KB bleuggh). So you might well imagine how delighted I was to read this new book from the creator of Captain Pug and discover a flamingo version of HP!

Fabio politely tipped his hat. ‘Fabio, the world’s greatest flamingo detective at your service, Madam.’

He’s no hulking giant but a mere pink slip of a thing and very very clever. Really he just wants to sip his pink lemonade and listen to the jazz music at his favourite venue, the Hotal Royale. His constant companion Gerald the giraffe, a gentle soul but also a complete duffer accompanies him.

However, there is no peaceful interlude for Fabio as the nightclub launches its talent show, he is roped in to being one of the judges and the likely winner of the show, a brilliant jazz-singing hippo goes missing.

There are plenty of suspects including Fabio’s fellow judges – a slippery python car salesman and the bizarre knitting secretary bird, Enid, owner of the local ballet school among them.  The local Lake Laloozee Chief Inspector Duff is no match for Fabios’s superior intellect –‘it’s a matter of logic’ – and this crime unravels faster than Enid’s knitting in the calm flamingo’s capable hands – errr, wings.

This is really good fun and the fluoro pink and green combination used throughout the design and illustrations is fantastic.

Highly recommended for readers from around 7 years upwards who enjoy a spot of sleuthing and a lot of laughs.

Lexi & Lottie #1: Trusty Twin Detectives – Melanie Alexander



Penguin Random House


May 29, 2017

Random House Australia Children’s

RRP $12.99


If you’re looking for something new for your early independent readers this might be just the thing. Ignorant as I am of TV shows in the main, apparently this is based on a kids’ show of the same name.  The author writes for television and also has teaching experience so clearly knows her audience.

Kid detectives and animals (vets/zoos) are very popular trends at present and this follows that appeal with a colourfully illustrated and easy to read narrative.

The twins live at an animal park which caters for creatures who are unable to survive in the wild. The arrival of two white tiger cubs is a great cause for celebration and publicity but when one of the cubs is stolen, it’s a case for the twins to crack. Enlisting the help of their Grandpa George, best friend Fred and clever pet mouse Mozart, the girls are sleuthing all over town to locate poor missing Pounce.

There are some rather cute inserts into the text of the girls’ notes on the case as well as interspersed animal facts.

All in all a useful addition to your Easy Reading collection.


Friday Barnes 7: Bitter Enemies – Rachel Spratt



Penguin Random House


July 31, 2017

Random House Australia Children’s

RRP $15.99


Beginning of term at Highcrest Academy has never been so dreary and desolate. Melanie and Ian are both depressed and missing their quirky best friend Friday, who has been whisked off to Switzerland to be with her family and attend Europe’s most elite school.  Adding to their misery, the start of term assembly sees the announcement of the school’s anniversary celebrations and the return of four previous headmasters. Good grief! Surely one headmaster is enough for any mortal?

However, they have not reckoned on the surprise return of the school’s most dedicated nerdy sleuth who appears dramatically at the doors of the assembly hall ready to deal with anything that might just foul up the anniversary celebrations. And just as well, the students have been warned to be on their best behaviour but apparently no one told the former headmasters the same thing. You have no idea how much havoc can be created by embittered former educators – wait, perhaps you do!

As usual, Friday is on hand to solve the mysteries, explain the inexplicable and generally get everyone out of trouble although not without finding herself in a pickle at the same time.

Old and new characters make their appearances and really you have to love Mrs Cannon, the world’s laziest English teacher – I wonder what might happen if I tried that approach?

These are such fun to read and Friday’s idiosyncrasies are so goofy as to be endearing. The solid friendships are a great feature of this series, proving you don’t need to be pattern made to fit in.

There is also the pathos as we find out more about Friday’s ghastly family and oh oh, the shocker at the end – what will happen to Friday when…. Oops, never mind, you’ll find out.

These are always high in demand in my library and I know the readers are waiting on this new one impatiently.

Highly recommended for readers from around 8 years upwards.


Friday Barnes #5 The Plot Thickens – R. A. Spratt




August 1, 2016

Random House Australia Children’s


RRP $15.99

I have some readers who have been driving us mad in the library waiting and waiting on a new Friday Barnes fix – and here it is!

Friday’s at her best solving mysteries, uncovering truth, being a complete dork and antagonising people in this latest episode. Her on/off friendship with Ian Wainscott begins unravelling faster than Friday’s daggy cardigans when she catches his formerly incarcerated father out in a huge lie about wanting Ian to live with him. Ian is furious that Friday has humiliated him in front of everyone.

That sets the tone for the whole term with things going awry all round. Two new teachers, a rather bogus celebrity artist taking over the Art class and an unlikeable bumptious PE teacher seem set to make Friday’s life more difficult.

Ian’s retaliation for the public shaming is a series of pranks played against Friday which begin to make her school life quite intolerable to the point where she starts to contemplate leaving Highcrest Academy.

However, in the meantime there are problems to solve with mysterious graffiti appearing all over the school, perimeter fences being cut in the dead of night and a rogue vending machine catching hold of arms.

It seems that Friday is really up against it this term but always plucky and unable to curb her innate insatiable drive to find the answers to any given unexplained incident, she ploughs ahead and of course, a satisfactory resolution (and armistice with Ian) is the outcome.  This is one girl protagonist who really brings joy proving that you don’t have to be a popular fashionista to be a winner – smart, caring and unpretentious, Friday is a Mighty Girl in my opinion.

As always, highly recommended for readers from around 8 and up – I foresee multiple reservations for this one in our library!

A Lottie Lipton Adventure: The Scroll of Alexandria – Dan Metcalf



Allen & Unwin Australia

Bloomsbury Publishing

February 2016-04-02

ISBN 9781472911872

RRP $12.99

If you are looking for a new series to engage newly independent readers, you need look no further!

Imagine living in a museum full of rare and wonderful objects. Lottie Lipton, nine years old, lives in the British Museum with her Great Uncle Bert and absolutely adores the Great Library with its vast collection of rare and valuable books.

Rapacious Sir Trevelyan Taylor, the new Head Curator of the museum, has other views and sees the disposal of the books as a prime money raiser, claiming that books have no place in a library and no regard for the Royal Appointment that placed them there by King George – which came with unbreakable instructions that the collection must not be split.

But if Lottie and Great Uncle Bert can find the last remaining scroll of the ancient library of Alexandria, which would definitely constitute a museum artefact then the nasty Sir Trev’s plot will be well and truly foiled.

Young readers will love helping Lottie with her puzzle and decoding secret messages as this determined girl follows the clues to find the missing scroll.  Her fellow investigators, Great Uncle Bert and Reg the caretaker are fun characters adding humour to the story. A glossary of more difficult words is included at the end of the book along with a couple of additional brainteasers to solve.

Look for at least three more titles forthcoming in this terrific interactive series. Highly recommended for readers from around 7 years up.

Friday Barnes: #4 No Rules – R. A. Spratt



ISBN: 9780857987013

Published: 04/01/2016

Imprint: Random House Australia Children’s

RRP – $15.99

The increasingly popular nerdy detective, Friday Barnes, makes her fourth appearance in this latest instalment filled with even more mayhem and mysteries.

To begin with Friday is rather surprisingly deported to Switzerland for lack of proper citizenship documents. Not surprisingly this is because her irritatingly vague but brilliant scientist parents failed to take care of such a trifle after her birth in Switzerland twelve years before.

While Friday spends three weeks productively in the Zurich airport transit lounge as the tangle of her actual citizenship is resolved, Highcrest Academy dissolves into utter chaos – of course!

The intrepid girl detective arrives back to find the school in an uproar of anarchy following the apparent mass dismissal of all the staff. With no teachers (no matter how incompetent) to supervise the students are running amok and it appears that Friday’s arch-nemesis but sometimes friend Ian Wainscott is responsible.

When the letters are shown to be a forgery and seemingly by the hand of Ian, he loses his scholarship place at the academy and is relegated to a nearby state school.

However that is far from the end of the catastrophes. How can a whole class set of maths text books disappear in just fifteen minutes? Who on earth would deliberately poison the students’ favourite beef stroganoff? And why would the most disliked boy in school have all his furniture removed? These and the arrival of a particularly unpleasant new Vice Principal are all problems which are simply grist to Friday’s mill.

It is no wonder this series is growing so rapidly in its readership as the favourite characters prove again and again how entertaining they are. Not least is Friday’s endearing personality which fluctuates between her sheer genius intelligence to bewildered gauche geek with the regularity of a pendulum.

Highly recommended for readers from around 8  years up who enjoy a fun mystery with some crazy antics.

Friday Barnes #3: Big Trouble – R. A. Spratt



ISBN: 9780857986993

Published: 03/08/2015

Imprint: Random House Australia Children’s

Extent: 272 pages

RRP $15.99

Ace amateur super sleuth Friday Barnes just gets busier and busier! In the third of the series, young Friday finds a perfect swarm of mysterious goings on at Highcrest Academy. Firstly, there is the unexpected visit from her absentminded father when he brings the dreadful news of the disappearance of Friday’s mum. Has she been kidnapped? Has there been some kind of terrible accident? Friday’s mood is not helped by having her father installed at her school until things have been sorted out. This is particularly so because the Headmaster also needs her help. Not only is there a huge kerfuffle with the arrival of new student, Princess Ingrid of Norway but it seems a thief is at large. The elusive Pimpernel is leaving calling cards everywhere and personal items are disappearing at rapid rate.

Friday’s relationship with her nemesis Ian Wainscott seems poised on the edge of a change after she helps Ian’s mum thwart her ex-husband’s attempt to leave her in financial ruin.  Certainly some of her classmates are eagerly awaiting a shift in the dynamic!

Friday’s giftedness is never grating, probably because it is balanced so delightfully with her social ineptitude. Her gauche geekiness is really very endearing and Spratt’s characterisations are always a triumph.

Another very positive aspect to Spratt’s writing is her ability to weave a more sophisticated vocabulary into the text with a full expectation that her tween readers will correctly interpret it. And they do! These books are proving very popular in our library with our new-to-high-school Year 7 girls.  For that reason it is just wonderful to see that the next volume will be published in early 2016.

Find a fun Friday Barnes Scavenger Hunt kit for libraries here and don’t forget that previous books had teaching notes provided.

Highly recommended for your budding detectives from around 9 years upwards.

The Thousand Dollar Tan Line: Veronica Mars 1



An Original Mystery by Rob Thomas

Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham

ISBN: 9781760112363
Australian Pub.: November 2014
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Imprint: A & U Children
Subject: Young adult fiction

Some of your students may already be acquainted with Veronica Mars from the highly successful television series and movie, created by Rob Thomas.

Now, in conjunction with Jennifer Graham, Thomas has embarked on a book series featuring the feisty private investigator.

Returning to her home town of Neptune, California, after a decade’s absence, Veronica is in partnership with her father in his private inquiry business. Struggling to stay afloat financially, as her father recovers from an accident and pursuing only dreary matrimonial disputes and similar, Veronica is anxious for the future of the business.

Then spring break arrives and Neptune is flooded with hordes of young people from colleges all over hell- bent on drinking, drugs, and parties while generally creating havoc in the normally quiet though somewhat seedy town.

When a young girl disappears from a wild party, Veronica is employed to assist with the investigation much to the chagrin of the local inept and corrupt sheriff. When a second girl disappears, things get really messy as it turns out this second girl is the stepdaughter of Veronica’s long estranged mother. Veronica’s investigations uncover drug cartel ties with party hosts and links to some very unsavoury characters.

This was a real thriller in every sense of the word. Fast-paced with the action moving along at a great clip, believable characters and a good plot twist all engage the reader with ease.

The publisher suggests this is a novel for the 14-18 years bracket. However, I will be firmly making this Senior Fiction only in my library. Very plentiful strong language, sex and drug references would make me extremely hesitant to recommend this to readers in Middle School.

For readers who enjoy series reading, this is the first in what promises to be a very exciting, slick and sexy collection.

click here to hear a teaser from the audiobook..