Loved loved loved this book. Dead Man's Cove is published by Orion and, though a children's book, any adult can read this and will love it. I certainly did. As a grown up (I use the word loosely) I love to read junior stories as not only will they be free of sex and four letter words but are usually written with care and a respect for their readers. OK sweeping statement, but you know I am prone to those and are all part of my elusive charm....
The story is set in Cornwall in and around St Ives, an area I know well so this really helps in my appreciation of the story, and follows the adventures of Laura Marlin an 11 year old sleuth. She has been living in a children's home and drives everyone there mad with endless curiosity and the use of the word WHY? I sense here that the author has read Anne of Green Gables, could be wrong of course, but the general get up and go and determination not to be beaten is very reminiscent of LM Montgomery's heroine. In true fairy tale style an unknown uncle turns up to claim her and she packs her bags and off she goes full of excitement and looking forward to her new life.
She is somewhat daunted when she arrives: "Laura went up the steps, rotting leaves squelching beneath her shoes. The doorknocker was a snarling tiger. Robbie lifted its head gingerly and rapped hard. From the bowels of the house came a guttural bark that seemed to spring from the slit beneath the door and slam into Laura's chest......a key scraped in the lock and the door screeched on its hinges as if it were not accustomed to opening. The ink black figure of a man stood framed against the yellow light with a wolfhound at his side. The slope of his shoulders and knot of muscles in his forearm as he gripped the creature's collar, spoke of an immense power, carefully restrained.
The smile left Robbie's face and he stepped forward uncertainly 'Laura meet your uncle'
What a start you have to admit. And the story goes on at a rattling pace as Laura settles in with Calvin Redfern, her mysterious relative and right away her desire to emulate her favourite character, Ace-Detective Matt Walker, is tested as there are plenty of mysteries to solve. Why does her uncle go out each night striding over the cliffs; why is she forbidden to go to Dead Man's Cove and why is Tariq, the shopkeeper's silent son so frightened?
Throw into this mixture a surly and unpleasant housekeeper, a nosy but warm hearted neighbour Mrs Crabtree ('though in her sixties she bleached her hair blonde and dressed exclusively in shades of pink, purple and orange') and a three legged Siberian Husky and you have all hte ingredients for a ripping yarn.
Lauren St John has a really engaging style of writing and a zippy narrative and though this book is fun and enjoyable it is more than that. Laura has to learn to trust, to realise that her uncle really loves and wants her in his life, and that friendship can be found and that it can also be testing and upsetting.
I can thoroughly recommend this book - thankfully it is the first in a series and Laura Marlin will be involved in more mysteries. I am already looking forward to the next one. (Mem: put on shelves and keep until darling Florence is old enough to read it)
This book was sent to me by the Book Trust as it was the winner of the Blue Peter Book Award which they have managed since 2008. The author was delighted 'I was speechless when I heard the news and something I will treasure for the rest of my life'.
According to the press release which came with the book 'Blue Peter is the longest running children's programme in the world. The twice weekly factual magazine show is designed to inspire, entertain and enthrall its young viewers'.
Which probably explains why the BBC, in its usual infinite wisdom is thinking of hiving it off onto a digital channel thus depriving half its audience of the chance to look at it. I do wonder sometimes if the grey suits who run the Beeb have any concept of the real world at all. I would urge you all to write in and complain, but we all know that this would be a total waste of time as the BBC has a proud record of doing precisely what it wants and will ignore its audience despite the fact that it is our money they use to uphold this institution.
Sorry to rant but Blue Peter deserves to stay where it is and while it supports such wonderful writing as Lauren St John's among other things, it should be accessible to the widest audience possible.
Booktrust is an independent charity dedicated to encouraging people of all ages and cultures to engage with books. 'The written word underpins all our activities and enables us to fulfil our vision of inspiring a lifelong love of books for all'. Yay! Please check them out at www.bookstrust.org.uk.
Lauren St John - check our her website and her blog http://www.laurenstjohn.com/