Tag Archives: Mystery

The Fall – Tristan Bancks




May 29, 2017

Random House Australia Children’s

RRP $16.99


Well, after much impatient anticipation I could just say ‘WOW’! But that’s hardly the review this new action-packed novel deserves so I shall continue.

Tristan has a superlative ability to write everyday all-too-human imperfect characters and transform them into inspirational heroes.

Sam has never known his father. He knows he has one, he knows his name and his occupation and sometimes a vague idea of where he is. He lives with his mum in the beautiful Blue Mountains and as an almost teenager who has faced some physical difficulties, he’s becoming a little hard to handle at times.  Following some serious surgery to correct a scoliosis issue, Sam is finally going to stay with his dad in Sydney for some recuperation for himself and some respite for his mum.

In his mind, he has created his crime reporter father into a kind of super-hero, even writing his own comics about Harry Garner: Crime Reporter where his James Bond-like father is a legend.

The reality falls far short when Sam finds himself sleeping on an uncomfortable couch in a dingy apartment and a father who insists on being called Harry not Dad. Harry is not the tall handsome action hero of Sam’s dreams but an old tired-looking man with the same twisted body that Sam himself would have been destined for without the painful surgery. Instead of bonding time with his father, Sam is left alone day and night with Magic, a rather drooly but affectionate dog and leftover take-away pizza for rations.

From the outset the reader is plunged into Sam’s nightmare experience in the big city. Alone as usual and fitfully awake during the night, Sam overhears an altercation on the balcony above his father’s apartment. Cautiously watching through the window, Sam is shocked to see a man fall down to the ground where it crumples into an unquestionably very dead body. He knows instantly that the man has been pushed – and that falling six floors is a very effective way to silence an enemy.

Racing to tell Harry he realises that his dad is gone – again – and in a quandary goes downstairs to check on the man and realises all too late that he has been seen.  He knows enough about major crime to conclude that this is not a healthy situation for him to be in.

With unremitting drama, pace and suspense the next twenty four hours becomes a cat-and-mouse game of desperation as Sam tries to piece together the crime, aided in part by a new friend Scarlet from the floor above.

Perhaps the worst part for Sam is wondering if and how his father could be involved with this dreadful circumstance.

The climax of this adventure story will have readers on the edge of their seats, with palms sweating as Sam and his father literally dodge bullets and escape their own deaths.

With themes of trust, family/male relationships, resilience and courage this is another fine coming-of-age novel from a master storyteller.

Watch Tristan’s book trailer and find out some more of the back story here.

My highest recommendation for this especially for readers from around ten years upwards.  Your readers who seek the adventure/mystery genre will be completely gripped by this.




The Secret Horses of Briar Hill – Megan Shepherd/Levi Penfold



By Megan Shepherd
Illustrated by Levi Pinfold


ISBN: 9781406367584
Imprint: Walker
Distributor: Walker Australia-HEDS
October 1, 2016
Australian RRP: $19.99
New Zealand RRP: $22.99

Just to continue on my ‘historical’ trail for the day, this is a simply beautiful novel which I read a few months ago and let slip down to the bottom of the pile (thank goodness for holiday cleaning frenzies!).

Set in Second World War England, Emmaline has been evacuated away from the bombs. But this is not just about escaping bombardment to safety, because Emmaline along with many other children of the time contracted tuberculosis. My knowledge of history is not deep for this period, despite having had a RAF father in Bomber Command and I certainly had never realised that due to the cramped and often unsanitary living conditions resulting from bomb devastation TB was rife, particularly amongst children.

Briar Hill Hospital in Shropshire has its fill of these poor kids many of whom were destined not to survive. Emmaline is not one of the worst – at first – and when she arrives she makes an amazing secret discovery. There are winged horses in the many mirrors at Briar Hill. Only she can see them and they call to her constantly.

She first discovers a beautiful horse called Firefox outside the mirrors and in the garden but it seems that she is not alone in this secret. The handyman Thomas appears to have some uncanny connection as well. Emmaline fights her disease but also begins a battle with the Black Horse, who wants to take the horses away. She writes to the Horse Lord – and he responds. But the Horse Lord cannot protect everyone and everything and soon Emmaline begins to see the purpose of the existence of the winged horses.

This is richly imaginative in both writing and illustrations, a wonderful and poignant tale of love and loss, the power of words and writing and fantasy.

Highly recommended for children from around 10 years upwards

The Turnkey – Allison Rushby



ISBN: 9781925126921
Imprint: Walker Books Australia
March 1, 2017
Australian RRP: $16.99

More mystery and history and another great read following my last post. Clearly a talent for beautiful writing and an interest in history runs in this family!

In this gripping story the mystery and history are wrapped up in a spooky supernatural plot. Flossie Birdwhistle is twelve and the youngest turnkey in living (or not living) memory. A turnkey is the guardian and keeper of a cemetery and Flossie’s responsibility is huge given that she is in charge of one of London’s oldest and most well-known graveyards, Highgate.  As such she must ensure that those in her care must be kept safe and undisturbed in their eternal rest.  Difficult at any time, during World War II, with London being blitzed beyond comprehension Flossie’s task is even greater.

This charge becomes even more complex when Flossie comes upon the ghost of a German soldier who appears to be carrying a strange object. Her suspicions aroused, Flossie begins to investigate and before too long is embroiled in a very sinister plot which threatens not only her cemetery but her country at large.

Fascinating and intriguing, this is a novel that will be loved by readers from around 9 or 10 years old.

How marvellous to read two fabulous novels both with such unusual plots and such strong ‘Mighty Girl’ protagonists in just a few weeks!

Highly recommended for your library shelves – and yourself!

Rose Ravensthorpe Investigates: Black Cats and Butlers – Janine Beacham



Rose Ravensthorpe Investigates: Black Cats and Butlers – Janine Beacham

MAR 28, 2017 | 9781510201286 | RRP $14.99

Hachette Au.

Imprint: Little Brown Books for Children

This has been one of my favourite reads of the past few weeks. Described as “The Clockwork Sparrow meets Downton Abbey”  it is really energetic and engaging novel.

Rose is meant to be a properly brought up young lady but somewhat rebels against this classification and when butlers all over London begin to be murdered including her own beloved Argyle, Rose determines to find out the truth.

Set in a quite Edwardian period Rose teams up with her not-so-bright friend and discovers a hidden world of secret guardians of York – butlers sworn to protect and serve.

Amidst complications of grave robbers, her father’s mission to destroy the opium trade from the Far East and an over-the-top magician, Rose becomes a trusted ally of the butlers’ secret society.  As the butlers wield their concealed rapiers, Rose unravels the dark reason behind the murders and triumphs exultantly.

Despite the darkness of the murders this is what I would describe as a ‘fun’ read. The prose simply rolls along and one must turn the page quickly to keep going until the denouement.

With mystery and history and a judicious splash of humour, this is a terrific addition to your library shelves for readers from around 9 or 10 upwards. I’m definitely looking forward to the next instalment!


Wormwood Mire: A Stella Montgomery Intrigue – Judith Rossell



Harper Collins

ISBN: 9780733333019

ISBN 10: 073333301X

Imprint: ABC Books – AU

On Sale: 10/24/2016

Pages: 288

List Price: 22.99 AUD

Warning: This review will be chockers with fulsome praise and expressions of delight.

From the point I took this book from its package two days ago I was in love with it.

We know that you can indeed judge a book by its cover often and looking at the beautiful artwork of this novel and stroking its textured surface was like holding a plush box of chocolates and greedily anticipating the contents.

And I was not disappointed. A gorgeously bound book with wonderful creamy pages, full page illustrations, embellishments and font all in a forest green this just oozes style and superiority.

After Stella’s first adventure (Withering-by-Sea) the nasty Aunts are icily furious and ponder what to do with such an unsuitable child.  They grasp the opportunity to send her to the old family home where their cousin is going to have his two (also motherless) children taught by a governess (hah! Expense-free solution) and so Stella is packed off to Wormwood Mire, a decaying mansion set in huge overgrown grounds. Her initial trepidation is relieved when she meets Strideforth and Hortense, her two cousins, both of whom are quirky in their own ways. She is further reassured by Miss Araminter the governess who is at the very least eccentric but extremely kind and sensitive.

Before she departed the gloomy house of Aunts Stella had discovered an old photograph which she has identified as being of her mother at Wormwood Mire with two babies in an old-fashioned pram – two babies? Did she once have a sister or twin? She is determined to solve the mystery of this while she is in the crumbling family ruin.

But Wormwood Mire holds many secrets. The children’s ancestor Wilberforce Montgomery who built the house was a traveller and collector of the curious and bizarre; objects, plants and animals. And there is something all the villagers are terrified by but won’t talk about. What is it and will the children be able to discover the menace – and survive it?

What a sensational read this is! The narrative flows perfectly from eddy to whirlpool to backwater and the reader is carried along effortlessly. For me it would have been a one sitting read had I not had to get up early the next morning. As it was I had to save the last few chapters but quickly polished them off, savouring every word.

Stella is indomitable – a Mighty Girl in every sense – she has courage and intelligence and empathy. There is also the mysterious power she possesses. She is a perfect foil for Strideforth, the essential scientific mind (at times with less than perfect success) and strange wild little Hortense, who is more often than not like the little creatures she adopts.

I cannot recommend this highly enough – of course, those who loved Judith’s Withering-by-Sea will be eager to get their hands on it – but for those who have not yet been introduced to Stella and her hidden otherworldly talent, it will also be a joy to read.

Artie and the Grime Wave – Written and illustrated by Richard Roxburgh



ISBN: 9781760292140

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Imprint: A & U Children

October 2016

RRP $16.99

Ok so Richard Roxburgh is a talented actor and director in both theatre and screen and of course the star of Rake. Now he’s added writing and illustrating to his portfolio in a very successful way. I mean to say, he’s good looking as well? Talk about take out a jackpot! Anyway, I digress so on with the review.

For your kids who love the rambunctious humour of the likes of Andy Griffith, Tristan Bancks, or Aaron Blabey and get the hysterical giggles over a few fart mentions this is perfect.

Artie and his friend Bumshoe are not the most popular kids in town. One is skinny, has lost his dad which has sent his mum into a deep depression and the other is a chubby one-of-many in a pretty ‘relaxed’ family.

When these two discover a Cave-of-Possibly-Stolen-Stuff they realise that the dodgy Mayor Grime is somehow involved with this gang of thugs. There have been so many thefts around town that everyone is on high alert yet no one wants to believe the two boys. Artie in particular is determined to rescue his lovely neighbour Gladys’ pet tortoise which has apparently been pet-napped with many other creatures.  But the two boys lack a serious amount of luck when it comes to finding a solution to the problem and end up in all sorts of trouble – including being almost eaten! An eccentric old lady who dabbles in high-tec inventions although continually coated in talc, a mum who rouses herself into tigress mode at exactly the right time and the stalwart support of good friends and neighbours saves the day.

Artie is no hulking hero but he stands up for what he believes and stands up to the bullies – and that’s an important message for any reader.

Any kid will love the part when one of the thugs has his bum bitten by the gang’s savage guard dog while enduring the world’s worst wedgie and will certainly love Aunty-boy’s invention the Fartex 120Y.

Highly recommended for readers who like to laugh out loud – from around 9 years old upwards.

The Eagle of Rome: A Lottie Lipton Adventure – Dan Metcalf


Lottie Lipton.jpg

Allen & Unwin

Bloomsbury Publishing


Imprint: A&C Black Children’S

September 2016

RRP $12.99

I have some little girls who will be most excited when this hits the shelves after the holidays. They loved the first one I brought along to the library so the rest of the series is on our ‘to buy’ list for next year’s budget.

The stories are quick and easy to read but the secret codes are great fun and provide a real challenge for some little readers.

In this new adventure Lottie comes up against famous treasure seeker Lady Viola Kirton who is desperately hunting the lost Eagle of the Ninth Legion. Lady Viola has long been Lottie’s role model but not once she discovers that the snobby woman only wants the Eagle so that she can sell it for a fabulous price rather than preserve it with the other antiquities in the British Museum.  Young Lottie is not about to let that happen so along with Uncle Bert and Reg she determines to solve the mystery of the hidden treasure first.

We have four more to catch up on so they had better be top of our list methinks!


Highly recommended for your newly independent readers from around Year 1 upwards.

Anyone But Ivy Pocket – Caleb Krisp




 Allen & Unwin Australia

Category:Children’s fiction



Imprint:Bloomsbury Child

Pub Date:February 2016

RRP $12.99


Caleb Krisp’s author bio from the publisher’s website should give you a pretty clear indication of the type of story to expect in this new series:


Caleb Krisp was raised by militant librarians who fed him a constant diet of nineteenth century literature and room temperature porridge. He graduated from the University of Sufferance with a degree in Whimsy and set out to make his mark in the world as a writer. Years of toil and failure followed, until, following a brief stint working in a locked box, Caleb moved to an abandoned cottage deep in the woods and devoted himself to writing about the adventures of a twelve-year-old lady’s maid of no importance. Caleb has a strong dislike of pastry chefs and certain domesticated rabbits. His only communication with the outside world is via morse code or kettle drum. He trusts no one.

Ivy Pocket is possibly the most maddening character you will ever encounter. She also creates mayhem wherever she appears. Though but a lowly maid of not very superior intellect, Ivy suffers from an insufferably inflated opinion of her own abilities.

As you lurch from one disaster to another in Ivy’s debut appearance, you begin to realise that there must be some kind of saving grace about anyone so completely and utterly inept, insensitive and impervious.

The story starts with Ivy being abandoned by her mistress in Paris – because of her overwhelming inadequacies as a maid.

Undeterred Ivy sets out to find her way back to England and lo! she is employed by an aging duchess to deliver a mysterious and valuable diamond to a young artistrocratic girl.

What follows is a comedy of errors but with an underlying sinister and spooky thread apparent to all but Ivy. Creepy little cowled creatures, a sneaky woman posing as a writer and also posing as a friend, a cold but efficient governess, a kindly solicitor, a completely bonkers upper class family and a rather unpleasant ghost all impact on Ivy’s mission.

To call Ivy a heroine seems slightly misguided but oddly enough despite all her irritating and often stupid habits and plans, she does emerge – indeed, survives – triumphantly.

Stay tuned for the continuing saga of Miss Ivy Pocket with the second instalment due out in May 2016.

An entertaining read which will appeal to those who enjoy the Lemony Snicket type of macabre but hilarious story.

Read more about the books here.