When you’ve spent the first week of your holidays sick, trying to do much-needed spring-cleaning in short bursts between resting you tend to feel pretty dreary. So to sit in my comfy bed with fresh clean sheets, a lovely new doona cover in soothing colours, and read the latest No 1 LDS from cover to cover was doubly a treat.
It is always a joy to revisit Botswana, Precious and her life, family and friends. In this new adventure of course there is a case to be solved. It is brought to the attention of Precious and the indefatigable Grace Makutsi by meek and mild Mr Polopetis and concerns the wrongful dismissal of a widowed young mother. Grace rather forcefully (surprise!) manages to make herself into the ‘Primary Investigating Officer’ – she does love an important sounding title – and also succeeds into reducing Mr P into even further submission. In normal circumstances Precious might have stepped in more assertively but she has much to occupy her mind of a more personal nature and it is this that really is the main focus of this book.
First there is the revelation that her scurrilous ex-‘husband’ has been seen back in Gabarone. Precious wonders what further dramas he will manage to instigate for herself and her family.
More demanding on her emotions however is the discovery of another woman who bears the same surname as her own. Her investigations lead to the completely unexpected development that this woman is her sister (half-sister) and it is her desperate fear that her father was not the good man he always seemed. Precious suspects that Obed may have been unfaithful to her late mother before she died. Her unravelling of this complication consumes her until at last the revelation lies spread out in front of her and her newly found sister Mingie. Then at last they can begin to build their relationship.
This was exactly what I needed to occupy an hour or so of resting while feeling poorly. Not too demanding, interesting in its plot, always fascinating in character studies – and above all invoking the images of a beautiful country, culture and people.
I don’t need to recommend this to fans of McCall-Smith – but should you be wanting to add some more mystery titles to your collection this would be a fine addition.
For readers from probably around 14 years upwards.
So about a week or so before I finished my last job (a month ago now) one of my favourite girls, Miss Georgia from Year 6, followed me into the library one morning, her face aglow. “Oh Ms Warren – I just finished reading the BEST book!” Yes, it was this one. I freely admitted I had not yet read a Ruby Redfort book – probably because due to Year 4/5/6 girls they were NEVER on the shelves! I did tell her however I was expecting this one in my next review parcel so have finally finished it. Being quite a bit longer than some I undertake and only reading at night the last week or so I had to just restrain myself to a few chapters each session.
All that being said once I got into the swing of it I did enjoy it. Ruby is kind of the girl equivalent of Alex Rider (in fact, I suggested AR to Georgia and she was onto the last couple for the holidays, having eaten them up!). Ruby is a bit mouthy and a bit of a loose cannon but has found herself due to her uncanny ability to solve puzzles and codes working for Spectrum as an undercover agent. This is gumshoe detective genre updated and uses quite a lot of the terminology, especially given Ruby’s and her friends’ propensity for crime shows. The villains are almost as comic book as those in Batman with perhaps a touch more evil added.
I think what I particularly like about this book is the absolutely stunning code. I’m no mathematician, as many can attest, but I can appreciate the ‘neatness’ of this particular cryptic puzzle.
Not really much need to ‘sell’ this one because I know it will be a hot favourite in any library. If you have already bought the hardback, I suggest you double up with this paperback – apparently there is no such thing as TOO much Ruby Redfort! Georgia, you were quite correct – it’s a great read!
Harper Collins Australia
ISBN 10: 0008132496
Imprint: HarperCollins – GB
List Price: 4.99 AUD
Girl detectives seem to be quite the popular trend of late and you will perhaps have some younger readers who want to get in on this but are not quite ready for some of the books on offer.
This new series will be just perfect for them as Dorothy Constance Mae Louise, known as Dot, is a younger girl as well. Written in diary style Dot gives the reader the low down on her situation. She’s just moved to a new house with her mum and little twins, Alf and Maisie, and of course is starting a new school. She’s pretty excited about all this but also a wee bit nervous. Not to worry, she makes two great new friends, Beans and Amy. As it happens Beans is also a fan of TV super sleuth Fred Fantastic – Ace Detective. Dot is very good at puzzles and codes and Beans is a good foil for her investigating as he is good at making gadgets.
When the teacher announces a school talent quest Amy, who is rather shy but a really good singer, is keen to perform but classmate Laura who thinks she is the superstar plans to sabotage her. Will Dot and Beans be able to help Amy overcome her nerves and thwart Laura’s sneaky plan?
This is a really cute story and already three more to come so a great little series to start off some independent readers. Girls will enjoy seeing Dot’s new bedroom become her own special place and also getting to know her family.
Lots to explore around friendship, adjusting to new situations and of course, codes, puzzles and mysteries!
Highly recommended for readers from around 7 upwards.
By the way, the author Clara Vulliamy is the daughter of Shirley Hughes!
Friday Barnes 1: Girl Detective – R. A. Spratt
Imprint: Random House Australia Children’s
Extent: 256 pages
RRP: $15.99. Paperback.
No doubt you would all be familiar with the wonderful world of Nanny Piggins. Now R. A. Spratt introduces us to a new character, Friday Barnes, who I am certain will prove every bit as popular as the porcine prima donna.
Friday Barnes is a Matilda-esque child, thoroughly neglected by her remote scientific parents – the surprise and unplanned child after a neatly organised delivery of four older siblings. Left basically to her own devices for eleven years, Friday is an exceptionally intelligent girl who has read everything she can lay her hands on (starting with all the scientific texts which are the only reading matter in her house). Her only respite from the remoteness of her parents and her carefully camouflaged presence at school is the weekly contact with her Uncle Bernie, an insurance investigator.
When Uncle Bernie is faced with a terrible investigation (the theft of a diamond necklace worth squillions) that seems unsolvable, Friday decides he needs her help and with the resourcefulness of her own clever brain plus the help of her fictional hero, the great Poirot, Friday reveals the culprit and earns herself a huge reward.
Friday is not a mercenary child but the reward money solves her own problem – where to go to high school (since the university turned her down though she blitzed the entrance exam – apparently they weren’t prepared to take on a 11 year old student!). She promptly pays her fees for the most exclusive school in the country, Highcrest Academy, figuring that attending a school which operates on a profit margin, it will at least be easier to bribe her way out of sporting events.
What Friday does not count on is that far from being anonymous at Highcrest, she suddenly finds herself investigating problems from missing homework to wildlife smuggling as well as dealing with some of the nastier pupils.
While Friday still hasn’t figured out the point of high school, she has gained her first friends ever and solved some very tricky mysteries – just by being herself.
Readers, particularly girls, of about 10 plus will greatly enjoy this fun read.