The Secret Detectives


Mrs Hartington- Davis has been asked to accompany Isobel on the journey from India to England, a country she doesn’t know and to an uncle with whom she has no connection. While Mrs Hartington- Davis might hope that Isobel will play with her daughter Letitia, it isn’t Isobel’s way. She’s a solitary child, who’s spent her eleven years watching through banisters or listening from beneath tables. She’s heard the officers partying with her late mother, accepts her own disagreeableness and has no need for friends.

Yet when she sees someone thrown overboard from the mail boat one evening, everything changes. Not only is Isobel not the only witness, but the hidden boy who sees the murder too, determines they should form their own Holmes and Watson alliance- Petty and Khan. Yet what if Letitia, whom Isobel is determined to shirk off, should prove indispensable to operations? Furthermore, what if The Secret Detectives might need each other as friends, and then as investigators?- Petty, Lettie and Khan? 

It seems that nobody is missing from the passenger list so who has a motive and what may be hidden? It is up to the children to work their way through purser’s lists, overbearing courtesy and expectation, to realise the crime and out the criminal. However time is short and freedom to explore, shorter!

The Secret Detectives is a superb middle grade detective novel, carefully plotted, with such fully rounded, sympathetic characters. I feel desperate to know Isobel’s next steps. Bookwagon recommends this novel highly.

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The Secret Detectives

Ella Risbridger

(Nosy Crow)

Isobel Petty has no plan to become part of any sort of friendship group; she doesn’t need friends. However the moment that she witnesses a murder, it seems she is bound to become one of The Secret Detectives. Not only is there another witness, but Sam sees past Isobel’s brittleness and determines they must become a team. What’s more, he invites Letitita Hartington- Davis, with her golden hair and dimples, to be part of their friendship too. Lettie, as Sam labels her, is a companion to Isobel aboard the mail ship from which they are journeying from India to unknown England.
Yet what did Isobel and Sam see? It seems as though all passengers are accounted for. Then again, Isobel’s constant notebook, hidden in her petticoat, is a record as to all things on the boat. Although Isobel does not need anyone, she is a watcher. It’s how she knows her late mother thought her a ‘funny little thing‘ and then that she is an unlikeable child. However, being unlikeable can be an advantage when you’re not expected to be silent, like Sam, or perfect, like Lettie. Then again it seems that nobody believes you and you can seem dispensable.
Ella Risbridger’s debut middle grade detective fiction title is a triumph. It seems that the crime is entirely elusive, rather like the criminal and the motive. Then the heart of the story, the friendship and new sense of belonging for each of The Secret Detectives is extracted with subtlety. While this title might inspire comparisons with The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow or Murder Most Unladylike, the plotting and characterisations are rich and unique. Bookwagon recommends this title highly.


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