Mystery & Mayhem (Crime Club) Paperback – 5 May 2016
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I can't pick a favourite of the twelve because they were all so different and gripping; all I can say to all you other young sleuths out there is track down a copy of this book and read it. 5 stars out of 5 in my opinion. -- BookieCookie Guardian Children's Books The variety contained in these pages is breath-taking. There are poisonings, dog-nappings and a good number of crimes that seem, at first glance, simply impossible to commit. You'll be whisked from contemporary Britain to the eighteenth century and to Victorian London. You'll find yourself in theatres, grand country houses and the American suburbs, and you'll discover enigmas and puzzles concerning pearls, pineapples, poisons and poodles (to employ just one letter of the alphabet). All the clues are there on the page, there's no cheating or actually-I-never-told-you-but, so you can set to and get to the solution before Emily, Minnie, Marcel and co, or you can sit back, relax and enjoy the ride. You'll laugh, you'll gasp with shock, you'll admire their cleverness (and your own!) and you'll occasionally grind your teeth as adults step in at the last minute and take all the credit. But most of all you'll have lots and lots of fun. -- Linda Lawlor The Bookbag
About the Author
Katherine Woodfine was born in Lancashire. She studied English at Bristol University and in 2005 she was highly commended in Vogue magazine’s annual Talent Competition for young writers. Her contribution to Mystery & Mayhem is the thrilling 'The Mystery of the Purloined Pearls'.
Julia Golding is a multi-award winning writer for children and young adults. She also writes under the pen names of Joss Stirling and Eve Edwards. Well over half a million of her books have been sold worldwide in more than twenty different languages. Her contribution to Mystery & Mayhem, 'Mel Foster and the Hound of the Baskervilles' features a guest appearance from Sherlock Holmes.
Frances Hardinge is the author of seven novels for children, including the 2015 Costa Book of the Year, The Lie Tree. Her debut novel, Fly by Night, won the 2006 Branford Boase Award and was shortlisted for the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize. Frances’s contribution to Mystery & Mayhem, ‘God’s Eye’, is a wonderfully sinister Victorian thriller featuring hot air balloons and secret poisonings.
Robin Stevens is highly experienced in writing about mystery and mayhem, being the author of the Murder Most Unladylike Mysteries series. Her contribution to Mystery & Mayhem is an Agatha Christie-style puzzler called ‘The Mystery of Room 12’. Robin lives in London.
Clementine Beauvais is an academic and writer of children’s books. She is currently lecturer at the University of York where she researches childhood and education. Her contribution to Mystery & Mayhem is ‘The Mystery of the Green Room’, described by Katherine Woodfine as ‘a brain-boggling Agatha-Christie style puzzle that even Miss Marple might struggle to solve’.
Elen Caldecott started her literary career when she was very young, writing sequels to some of her favourite books because she couldn’t bear to say goodbye to the characters. Before becoming a published author, Elen worked as an archaeologist, a nurse, a theatre usher and a museum security guard. Her first book was How Kirsty Jenkins Stole the Elephant. Elen Caldecott’s contribution to Mystery & Mayhem, ‘Rain on My Parade’, is a deliciously complex modern day puzzler.
Born in Wales, Susie Day moved to Oxford to read English Literature at Oxford University and continues to live in Oxford now she’s a children’s writer. Her novels for children include Big Woo!, Girl Meets Cake, and The Secret of Sam and Sam. Susie’s contribution to Mystery & Mayhem, ‘Emily and the Detectives’, is about the capable Emily who outsmarts her detective dad, Mr Black, and the clueless Lord Copperbole.
Caroline Lawrence was born in London but grew up in the United States before returning to the UK to study at Cambridge. Caroline is a big fan of mystery fiction, having written The Roman Mysteries, series of historical novels for children. Her contribution to Mystery & Mayhem, ‘The Mystery of Diablo Canyon Circle’, has a hint of the American Wild West.
Helen Moss began writing for children in 2007. Her books include the Adventure Island and Secrets of the Tombs series. Helen was born in Worcestershire. After a degree in Psychology and Philosophy, she went on to study for a PhD in psycholinguistics at Cambridge. Her short story in Mystery & Mayhem, ‘The Mystery of the Pineapple Plot’, is an exciting Georgian country house mystery.
Acclaimed author Sally Nicholls has written several novels for children, including Ways to Live Forever, Shadow Girl, and Season of Secrets. She has won the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize and the Dimplex New Writer of the Year Award. Her short story in Mystery & Mayhem is ‘Safe Keeping’, a tribute to Boy’s Own-style adventures.
Harriet Whitehorn lives in London with her husband and her three daughters. She currently works for English Heritage and is the author of the Violet and the Pearl of the Orient series. Harriet’s contribution to Mystery & Mayhem, ‘The Murder of Monsieur Pierre’, is set on the streets of 1870s Soho.
Kate Pankhurst has an MA in Children's Book Illustration. She has illustrated books by Ian Whybrow (author of 'The Bedtime Bear' and 'The Tickle Book') and Marjorie Newman ('Mole and the Baby Bird'). Her contribution to Mystery & Mayhem introduces a brilliant, quick thinking young sleuth, Sid the dog walker.
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I was very keen to read this collection as I have been totally captivated by the recent publications by Woodfine and Stevens; enchanted by their stunning book covers, charmed by their historical settings and their clever embodiment of combining of all the wining ingredients for intriguing mystery stories inherited from the greats like Christie and Conan Doyle to write something fresh and full of modern appeal. I am also a huge fan of Helen Moss and Sally Nicholls so I really had to read this book!
Woodfine says in the introduction that these new mysteries are a "nod to the much loved mysteries of the past but also bring detective fiction bang up to date." This collection is diverse and includes a range of different voices and character; from those of boys and girls, from modern day to the Victorian era to the Georgian period, from realism to the more surreal. What makes them all particularly appealing is that all the writers are clearly big fans of mystery writers and have a deep knowledge of the genre and the voices of previous authors famed for this style of writing. They all seek to have some fun with the traditions of crime fiction and all understand what makes a perfect young adult read. These are not simple, dumb downed pastiches but something more sophisticated, which embrace the legacy of previous crime writers and reinvent the genre. They are all highly skilled and very talented writers and it is a real treat to find them all inside the same covers!
Another great thing about this collection is that they all encourage the reader to solve the crime before the end of the story. Any young sleuth will rise to such a challenge! What will be equally appealing to the reader is that all the young detectives featured are smarter than the adults around them - as Woodfine points out, they are all "smarter, more sharp eyed, more sharp witted and courageous." Adults are not presented in a derogatory way at all, there is always a certain level of respect between the characters which I think is important having been subjected to so much of the more derisive and slightly unpleasant behaviour often portrayed in American programmes where teenagers are always trying to get the upper hand. These young people aren't smug or arrogant, just intelligent lovers of puzzles and mystery!
I enjoyed "Mel Foster and the Hound of the Baskervilles" by Julia Golding. It was lively, witty, modern and engaging. The story was well constructed with appealing characters who were easy to identify with. The adults were a little patronising and mocked gently with comic humour for their simplistic deductions. Some of the stories had hidden references to other detectives and villains from other canonical titles - many of which I probably missed! It was a treat to read a short story by prize winning author Hardinge whose story is set around the Great Exhibition in Victorian Crystal Palace. I really enjoyed Harriet Whitehorn's "Murder of Monsieur Pierre" which is set in 1782 before the protagonist grows up and becomes the "Crime Solver Extraordinaire" and the "cleverest woman in London", preceding Piorot and Holmes. Sally Nicholl's story featuring male characters from an office post room was really entertaining. It was vivid, fast paced, full of authentic dialogue and wry observations about the luck fictional detectives usually have handed to them on a plate compared to the real investigative work that an "ordinary" crime lover must undertake. The book ends with the current queens of the new murder, mystery and mayhem genre: Woodfine and Stevens. The icing on the cake - or should I say "bun break"?!
I liked that the girl protagonists are all very positive and affirming role models who defy the conventions to which they are confined or dictated to by the historical setting of their story. They all have spirit and humour, they follow their instincts and question everything around them. They show initiative and imagination. I liked that the stories covered a real range of settings, contexts and situations. I think they all give a real flavour of the author's style and will certainly encourage readers to seek out other novels once they've had a taster here. It is a rather special and unique collection of stories that would make a perfect gift for anyone over the age of 9 or 10. I will certainly be making sure every young detective I know gets a copy! A hugely enjoyable read!
My thanks to NetGalley for the advanced copy in return for a fair and honest review. For more recommendations please follow me on Twitter @katherinesunde3 (bibliomaniacUK) or subscribe to my blog for email updates of future reviews.