Thursday, 7 January 2016

Review: The Marsh Road Mysteries by Elen Caldecott

Diamonds and Daggers

Hollywood sensation, Betty Massino, has come to star in the theatre down the road and Piotr and his friends Andrew and Minnie couldn't be more excited! But when the famous actress's hugely expensive diamond necklace goes missing, Piotr's dad, a security guard at the theatre, is a prime suspect. Soon, Piotr faces the very real threat of being sent 'home' to Poland. With the help of Sylvie and her twin sister Flora, can Piotr, Andrew and Minnie solve the crime or will they lose Piotr forever? The first in a fantastic new series filled with friendship, adventure and mystery!

Crowns and Codebreakers

When Minnie's gran comes to stay, all the way from Nigeria, Minnie KNOWS there will be trouble. And straight away Gran notices she's picked up the wrong suitcase at the airport. This one is full of boy's clothes, and she's not at all happy about it! But when their house is burgled and the only thing taken is the suitcase, Minnie realises there'll be much more trouble than she bargained for. Can the gang solve the crime or will the mystery of the little lost boy be forever unsolved?

Spooks and Scooters

Flora and Sylvie are going on the holiday of a lifetime with their dad. But - WHAT? - Dad cancels the trip only hours before the flight because - OH MY GOODNESS - someone has stolen precious blueprints of Dad's latest invention: an amazing new scooter. But who? And why? Time to call on the only five people who can possibly solve the crime!

Three was the magic number for Bob Dorough, Blind Melon and De La Soul, and it's also the magic number for these new style Book Zone reviews, as part of my seemingly endless quest for brevity when reviewing. So, here are three reasons to love Elen Caldecott's March Road Mysteries books, of which the third, Spooks and Scooters, is due to be published next month.

1. Diversity

It's fantastic to read a middle grade mystery story that follows the adventures of a group of friends of different races and backgrounds. Piotr Domek is a Polish immigrant and lives his parents, who moved to Britain in search of a better standard of living; Minnie Adesina is of Nigerian heritage; twins Flora and Sylvie Hampshire's parents are separated; and Andrew Jones is probably a young carer (I say probably, as each story puts the spotlight on a different member of the gang, and it hasn't been Andrew's turn yet). This diverse mix of backgrounds and ethnicities rings very true as a group of friends living in modern multi-cultural Britain, and it also lends itself to stories that, whilst being primarily mysteries, also touch on themes such as racism and prejudice.

2. Friendship

Elen Caldecott gets kids. She understands how they tick and how their friendships can be strong one day and fragile the next. Young readers will find it very easy to identify with the relationships between the five protagonists. The characters themselves are engaging and very cleverly drawn, with each child's personality shining just as much as the next, and they bring a wonderful air of humour to the stories that has the reader finding themselves grinning from ear to ear without even realising.

3. Mystery

The mysteries in which the group of friends find themselves embroiled are exciting and cleverly plotted. These aren't Famous Five style adventures, where the protagonists just happen to stumble on to the solution; our team of young sleuths really have to use their brains and combine their various strengths to solve these mysteries. As an adult reader, I have to admit to guessing the outcome of the first two books, but it took me quite a lot longer to work out whodunnit. But I'm reading with a lifetime of read mystery stories locked away in my brain, and I'm sure younger readers will find the solutions a little harder to predict.

Elen Caldecott's Marsh Road Mysteries are a must-read for any mystery-hungry young reader. It's great to see so many new mystery stories being published for this age group at the moment, as they do not appear to have been in vogue for some time. My thanks go to those wonderful people at Bloomsbury for sending me copies of the books to read.

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