So, before I start this review, a confession: until I received a copy of this to review (thanks to Macmillan), I’d never read Lauren St John.
There, I’ve said it. I knew how talented she was rumoured to be, how much of a mainstay in teacher recommends and class libraries, and how popular with many of the young readers I meet in work. But, despite being on my list of authors to catch up on for sometime, I’d just never got round to it. So, Kat Wolfe was my introduction, and what a pleasing introduction it was.
Kat Wolfe loves her new home in idyllic Bluebell Bay, especially since it comes with a resident wildcat.
But when she starts pet-sitting for pocket money, she finds that beneath the town’s surface lie some dark and dangerous secrets…
This is sure to be a wildly popular new “middle-grade” series: it has a whole zoo’s worth of animals (from cats and dogs to parrots and capuchins to horses and wild cats); a seemingly idyllic seaside town (and we all know that when a book features a peaceful, close-knit and crime-free setting it’s going to mean plenty of crime, daring and action!); two enterprising, clever and determined female lead characters (Wolfe and Lamb – love it!!) plus a wonderful ‘supporting cast’ including Edith – an ex-librarian and armchair adventurer extraordinaire (loved her!); plenty of shady characters to cast suspicions on and a healthy dose of tech to bring it smack up to date.
And that is one of the best things about the book: it has the feel and old-fashioned charm of a classic mystery adventure, but with a sassy coding genius as one half of the detecting duo and plenty of hi-tech gadgetry and plot twists to plant it firmly in the now.
It’s sure to be a hit with fans of both other mystery/detective series (think Enid Blyton re-routed via Lauren Child’s Ruby Redfort) and animal lovers too – any fans of Jess Butterworth’s ‘When the Mountains Roared’ or Gill Lewis’ animal-based books are sure to love this series.
I also read the author’s note at the end of the story with great interest: Lauren St John’s experience with animals and journalism, and the wealth of knowledge gleaned from both have clearly informed her writing; the amount of the story that was rooted in true stories was fascinating – as she points out fact is often stranger than fiction!
This background knowledge and research show in the gradually increasing complications in the investigation: starting out as a seemingly simple missing person, the plot as they say soon thickens, and we’re faced with a a multi-layered case involving an ever-widening range of puzzles, problems and of course – suspects!