Here's the first post in my week celebrating the young crime solver.
Dead Man's Cove by Lauren St John (March 2011, Orion Childrens ISBN 1444001485)
Review: I think the gorgeous cover gives away what you're getting in Dead Man's Cove: an old-fashioned adventure story. Dead Man's Cove is the first of the Laura Marlin books, the sequel Kidnap in the Caribbean being out in July.
Laura is an eleven-year-old orphan who, fuelled by reading 'Matt Walker' detective books and compelled by a non-stop curiosity, wants to be a detective when she grows up. She has stayed in several foster homes but always returns to Sylvan Meadows Children's Home until a miracle happens: a relative is discovered and her uncle, who lives in St Ives, wants to adopt her.
Initially quite wary of the stranger, who is her flesh-and-blood, she soon settles into St Ives and is given never-before seen freedom to wander the town and environs with the exception of one path, the one that leads to Dead Man's Cove.
Her uncle is rarely home and Laura is quite lonely so she tries to make friends with Tariq who works in the local grocery-shop, but who doesn't speak English and seems down-trodden by his parents. Eventually their friendship is broken but another friend, though not a human one, comes into her life and together they begin to investigate some of the mysteries that revolve around her home and uncle leading to a life-threatening final act involving Dead Man's Cove...
Dead Man's Cove which won the Blue Peter Book Award 2011, is a charming novel. Laura is a likeable lead character who is clever and inquisitive with a strong sense of justice and though she occasionally says something a bit nasty she soon realises and apologises. I felt so pleased that she's finally found somewhere to belong. I called this an old-fashioned adventure story however that's more due to the freedom Laura has and some of the classic tropes used: chloroform, messages in bottles, than the underlying crime that's being committed. I also enjoyed the beautiful St Ives setting and I wonder if there's now a Laura Marlin trail retracing her route to school where some significant story advances are made.
Dead Man's Cove is told in short-ish chapters each headed with one of illustrator David Dean's lovely and accurate drawings.
I'm really looking forward to the next book, Kidnap in the Caribbean.