Saturday, 4 June 2011

Guest Post: My Favourite Child Detectives by Caroline Lawrence

Caroline Lawrence is writing a new series of history-mystery novels. Like the Roman Mysteries, her new Western Mysteries series will also have a kid detective. So what is it with Caroline and child P.I.s? We asked her to tell us about her favourite child detectives:

You'd think because I write books with child detectives that Id have lots of favourites, but I could only think of three whove had any real impact on my own writing.

1. Nancy Drew - Nancy Drew Mystery Stories

When I was ten, I wanted to be Nancy. Feminine yet athletic, fashionable yet fun, bold, brave and utterly independent. Her life was free of chores and full of adventure. With her convertible car, absent-minded father and accessory boyfriend, she was my ideal. I especially loved (and still love) the way she often let criminals off with a stern finger-wagging. She was such an influence that many years later I based my spunky Roman detectrix on her. Like Nancy, Flavia Gemina has no mother. Like Nancy, her father is absent-minded. Alma the slave stands in for Nancys genial housekeeper. Both can be commanded to make lunch and clean up after, while having not one jot of authority to order our heroine to do a thing in return. Yessss! Of course, no real Roman girl could be as independent as Flavia, but she and her gang are the perfect guides for kids who want to solve the mystery of what it was like to live in Roman times.

2. Sherlock Holmes - Sherlock Holmes Mystery Stories

As soon as I graduated from Nancy Drew Primary School I went to Sherlock Holmes Middle School to learn about life. But Holmes is not a child, you protest. Yes, he is! Hes a total kidult. Just look at him. He exhibits little interest in the opposite sex, has a massive ego, thinks hes always right and is obsessed with his music and his collections. Watson reminds him to eat, nags him to clean his room, worries about his substance abuse, and disapproves of his lifestyle in general. Watsons isnt Sherlocks sidekick; hes his mum! The Sherlock Holmes Mysteries are perfectly suitable for kids, (providing they can wade through those boggy Victorian paragraphs.) If Flavia was inspired by Nancy Drew, then my newest detective P.K. (Pinky) Pinkerton is modelled on Holmes. Pinky shares Holmes brilliant mind and love of collections, as well as some of his social brusqueness.

3. Christopher Boone - The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

Mark Haddon gets that Sherlock Holmes was probably borderline Aspergers. Haddons brilliant creation is an autistic boy named Christopher Boone who feels a deep affinity with the Baker Street sleuth and idolises him. When a neighbourhood dog is murdered, Christopher uses Holmesian methods to find out who done it. But really hes trying to figure out How to Live in the World. And at the deepest level, thats the appeal of the mystery genre for us all. Every detective is just a manifestation of ourselves as we try to figure out how to live in the world. I find Christopher particularly appealing because on my bad days I suspect I myself am borderline Aspergers. Ive given P.K. some of his traits, like the inability to read peoples faces.

While compiling this list I frisked my memory in order to find a couple more memorable kid sleuths, but got nothing. So I sent out a tweet to some of my fellow-writers to see which child detectives made impressions on them. A chorus of enthusiastic tweets came back: Emil and the Detectives; Flixton Slick; Jupiter Jones; Claudia in the Babysitters Club; Harriet the Spy; Encyclopedia Brown; The Famous Five; The Secret Seven; The Hardy Boys; The Diamond Brothers; Tintin; Vesper Holly; Penny from Inspector Gadget; Trixie Belden and several more.

Some I must confess Ive never heard of, others Ive never read, and of those I have dipped into, no memorable chunks float to the surface. Its obvious that child & teen detectives are very dear to their readers hearts. And I suspect its because everyones favourite child detective dates from their golden years of reading, when they were ten or eleven.

If I were a detective, I might be able to deduce something from that!


Huge thanks to Caroline for this great post. Her first Western Mysteries book, The Case of the Deadly Desperados, is an absolute corker and my review will be posted very soon. Caroline's blog tour continues through to 14th June so make sure you check out the rest of her posts.

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