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4.8 out of 5 stars48
4.8 out of 5 stars
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on 16 April 2011
A truly outstanding, totally enthralling mystery set in Cornwall, this is one of the very best children's mysteries I've ever read. The heroine, 11-year-old orphan Laura Marlin, has been rescued from the children's home by her mysterious uncle, Calvin Redfern. Laura loves books, especially detective stories, and wants to become a detective like her favorite fictional detective, Matt Walker.

After she arrives in St. Ives, where her uncle lives, she finds all sorts of mysteries that call out to her to be solved: What is her uncle's real occupation? Why does he forbid her to go to Dead Man's Cove? Why has the silent boy Tariq, who lives with an Indian couple who run a grocery store, suddenly rejected her friendship? Who has been leaving her messages in a bottle? These are only a few of the puzzles that Laura's curiosity won't let her leave unsolved.

There's plenty of adventure here, plus a twisty plot, quirky, believable characters, and a satisfying, surprising ending. One of my favorite characters is a lovable, brave three-legged Siberian husky who becomes Laura's soul mate. It's a wonderful tale that will appeal not only to kids, but also to grown-ups, even those who don't usually read children's books.
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on 31 January 2013
What's Good About It

It's a charming little detective story, without being cutesy. There's real threat and real danger, and serious issues explored within the narrative. Laura is a great character - very relatable, and admirable. She's independent, intelligent, brave and loyal, but she has her flaws too, making her rounded and believable.

The progression of the mystery - starting with Laura trying to figure out her uncle, escalating to the grand plot behind everything gives the reader a nice sense of immersion into the story. The suspense and fear builds throughout the book slowly, leaving you on tenterhooks as the closing chapters approach.

Of course, we can't ignore the fact that this is a children's book - and with a main character aged 11, it is probably targetting 8-10 year olds as its main audience. One of the best things about Dead Man's Cove is it manages to do everything I've mentioned above, keeping the prose simple enough for an 8 year old, yet without being condescending. I can't say exactly what issues are being dealt with within the book without giving too much of the story away, but they are serious and complicated issues. Dead Man's Cove challenges its audience, confronts them with some of the stark realities of the world, and it's all the better for it.

What's Not So Good

Some of the characters were a bit stereotyped, but they were mostly minor characters, and the main characters were developed and rounded enough for this to be easily forgiven.

Rating: 4.5/5
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VINE VOICEon 3 October 2010
Lauren St John is the author is a series of books for older children set in Africa. The White Giraffe and its sequels are heartwarming and well-loved, although I admit we've not read any of them (sadly, my daughter is not a fan of what she considers `animal tales'). However her latest book, the first of a new series, sounded attractive: - it features an orphan, Laura Marlin, who goes to live with her uncle in Cornwall and becomes a detective like the hero of her favourite books.

Laura, like Jacqueline Wilson's Tracey Beaker, lives in a children's home. She is delighted to find out she has an uncle who lives in St Ives who wants her to come and live with him - she knows nothing about him at all, but he seems genuinely interested in her and happy to have her there once she's moved. The only problem is that she hardly sees anything of him - his work keeps him very busy and he's often out in the small hours, Laura has no idea what he actually does. She spends more time with Mrs Webb the slightly strange housekeeper who is usually on hand to cook her dinner. However Uncle Calvin does encourage Laura to be independent and to explore St Ives - he just cautions her - don't take the path to Dead Man's Cove.

Laura soon gets to know the town, it's hills and beaches and then one day she finds a message in a bottle on her path to school - `Can I trust you?' it asks. Laura is intrigued and thus a mystery begins to find out who is wrote the message. She makes a friend, Tariq, the `son' of the Mukhtars who run the North Star Grocery. He can't speak English yet and Laura is sure there's a story to him as well. Then there is Skye, the three-legged Husky dog who needs a new home - needless to say, Laura falls for him and he makes a wonderful animal companion for her on her subsequent adventures.

Although the plot of this mystery is totally up to date and there is real peril for Laura, there's a real charm to this story that reminded me of the spiffing adventures of the Famous Five, Laura being a definite `George' type. The setting in St Ives is spot on - and having been there recently, I could remember the gorgeous Porthmeor beach amongst places mentioned - I don't know if Dead Man's Cove is real or not though. The Cornish history of smugglers, hidden coves and wreckers adds that slight hint of romance and makes it a definite adventure rather than ordeal, until the heroics are needed at the end. Laura is a great character, and her Uncle Calvin is rather exciting being so mysterious.

I know more Laura Marlin mysteries are in the pipeline, and I hope they're as fun as this one was to read. I'd thoroughly recommend it for 9-11 year olds who prefer less gritty reads, and my daughter is interested in this one now I've auditioned it for her!
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on 26 May 2014
This is a really good mystery book and you feel yourself coming up with lots of your own situation in your head. Being a fast reader I was determined to make this book last because I had been told it was really good but it was so good I couldnt put it down and ended up sitting and reading it in a day. laura Marlin is a 11year old orphan who dreams for adventure and gets one when her uncle comes and takes her home to Cornwall. There Laura Marlin meets friends and with her curious nature discovers a mystery in her home town surrounded by her Uncles job. This book is a brillant read. I would recommend it for 9+ but I am 12 and still love them. The other ones in the series are brillant as well.
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on 26 February 2014
I’ve read several of Lauren St John’s books before – all 4 of her White Giraffe series set in Africa were very good and highly enjoyable reads. It seems as though the author has found a successful type of writing and has continued to follow it again here.

This book follows Laura – an 11 year old orphan who suddenly discovers she has an uncle in Cornwall and is sent from her children’s home to live with him. What follows is a mystery story with lots of shady characters and a good plot. There aren’t too many twists and adults can predict from the start what will happen, but I’m sure that children would enjoy it as an introduction to mystery and crime writing – it is definitely easier to follow than some other mystery stories written for children that I’ve read.

In terms of language there are some beautiful descriptive passages and the descriptions of St Ives are beautiful (it may help to have been there to understand some of these). None of the vocabulary chosen is particularly high but it would be an enjoyable book to read together.

My only problem is that it follows the same old formula as all of St John’s other books – an orphan child who gets mixed up with some unpleasant people and lots of mysteries. Pick and choose which of the books you read – too many might get a little samey!
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on 28 July 2012
I am a child who is 8 and I have finished this book. It is very exciting because it contains a ruthless gang, a mysterious uncle and an orphan. I especially liked the thrilling ending. It would be best read to children in year 3 or over. Year 6 and over should understand it and be able to read it by themselves, so get reading!
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on 3 March 2014
My daughter was recommended to read these books by a girl in her class who is an avid reader. I hadn't heard of the author, but on the wishes of my then 7 year old, I bought them. Wow they are great. We have been reading together and she has been reading some on her own - have found myself dashing upstairs when she is at school to catch up with where she is in the book!!!!
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on 11 December 2011
I go to school in St. Ives and think this book is really good. I have read loads of books and my nickname is bookworm. This is one of my favorites.
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on 19 August 2013
I found this book by reading Kentucky thriller firSt I loved it so I bought the first book it is one of the best books I have ever read I mean ever
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on 27 May 2012
I run a school book club and the children kept raving about this book so I decided to try it. Well, I got through it in an evening! It's beautifully written with wonderful descriptions of the Cornish coast and a gripping mystery to keep you hooked. Even as an adult, I found myself trying to keep up with the twists and turns and it's not completely predictable.
Highly recommended to all ages
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