Dead Good Detectives / The Lizzie and Belle Mysteries: Drama and Danger

These are exciting detective stories recently published by Farshore – thanks to the publisher for sending them for review.

Dead Good Detectives
Jenny McLachlan, illustrated by Chloe Dominique

Here is something completely different from the author of the fabulous ROAR series and it’s way more than ‘dead good’, this is dead fantastic. It features twelve year old Sid Jones who lives with her dad who runs the miniatures museum in the the town of Fathom. Sid has a terrific imagination, a liking for maps and spends a lot of time hanging out in the graveyard with her best friend, the clever, eccentric Zen. Sometimes though she gets embarrassed by his behaviour and slowly starts to avoid his company particularly when she accidentally calls forth a 300-year-old pirate ghost, Bones, by means of a Crunchie bar and a red gel pen as her town prepares for its annual Pirate Day extravaganza.

Bones starts to follow her around, calling her magical for releasing him from his imprisonment in Halfway House, and irritatingly talking of his lost treasure. The peculiar establishment is full of lost souls in limbo trapped by landlord Old Scratch, a truly menacing character and now Sid’s help is required to assist Bones in his search for the treasure, thus allowing him to leave the world of the living at long last.
Time is running out: can Sid and Zen help Ezekiel ‘Bones’ Kittow before it’s too late.

A super piratical adventure – in the words of Bones, ‘a rollicking caper’ it certainly is, but it’s also a tale of being strong enough to be your true self as you grow up, however unconventional that may be. The dead good news is that there’s more to come of the DGD soon, meanwhile chips with curry sauce are the order of the day.

The Lizzie and Belle Mysteries: Drama and Danger
J.T.Williams, illustrated by Simone Douglas

Set in London towards the end of the eighteenth century, this is a riveting tale from author J.T. Williams who is new to me,. It’s particularly unusual as the two main protagonists are black girls, Lizzie Sancho, age twelve, and her new friend from an aristocratic family, Dido Belle. We follow the girls as they try to discover who attempted to murder Lizzie’s father, Ignatius, as he was about to make his debut as Othello at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. (Both Dido Belle and Ignatius Sancho were real people.)

There’s high drama indeed as people they know start disappearing; it’s difficult for the girls to know who to trust but they do know there’s a tall shadowy figure lurking and watching them. There are surprises for Lizzie when she discovers things about some of her own family members she wasn’t previously aware of.

Through these enormously likeable, determined people we learn something of the experiences of Black British people in the 18th century, the British slave trade and how some people were striving towards the total emancipation of people of African descent.

A vivid, superbly told historical adventure that is fast paced, unpredictable and filled with genuine peril. With super black and white illustrations by Simone Douglas, I definitely recommend it for older primary readers and beyond. At the end of the book something happens that sets the scene for Lizzie and Belle’s next adventure: I look forward to it eagerly.

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