Laura Marlin Mysteries: Dead Man's Cove by Lauren St John
|Laura Marlin Mysteries: Dead Man's Cove by Lauren St John|
|Genre: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Linda Lawlor|
|Summary: The thoroughly enjoyable first book in a series about a likeable young orphan who dreams of being a detective.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 192||Date: August 2010|
|Publisher: Orion Children's Books|
Laura has been in foster care since she was born, but Social Services have recently discovered that she has an uncle. So, at the beginning of this adventure mystery she finds herself moving to a house by the beach in Cornwall to live with Calvin Redfern, a man she has never met before. Laura's experiences have taught her to question everything, to be independent and to stand on her own two feet, so having an uncle who trusts her to be sensible, rather than lay down a list of rules, seems ideal. But Uncle Calvin and his house are shrouded in secrets. Why does he work such strange hours? Where does he go late at night? And why are there no signs of his past in the house?
Laura comes across a further mystery when she meets Tariq, a mysterious Indian boy who always seems pleased to see her when she comes into the shop where he works. He is horribly thin, he has bruises on his arms, and he is clearly afraid of his adopted parents the Mukhtars. But he rarely says a word, and although he listens carefully when Laura chatters to him, he never speaks a word of English in return.
Laura loves novels about the brilliant detective, Matt Walker, and she dreams of the day she can be just like him. In every new situation she asks herself what he would do, and she carefully rereads his books for tips on tracking suspects and uncovering secret messages. She longs for excitement in her life, although when her wish comes true she finds, like most people, that the reality isn't nearly as much fun as the dream.
Dead Man's Cove has in many ways the feel of a traditional adventure mystery, with clear-cut villains, clues and false trails and a dramatic climax. But Laura is a thoroughly modern girl. Her uncle generously gives her a mobile phone, and she is quite capable of getting answers to her questions by researching them on the internet. At first she investigates the mysteries she comes across for pleasure more than anything else, but she soon finds that things are getting scary and dangerous. Fortunately she is a courageous young girl, who keeps her wits about her when things go wrong, and she manages to get herself out of several scrapes. But when her uncle's strange housekeeper Mrs Webb begins to behave in a sinister fashion, spying on her uncle and trying to squeeze information out of her, even Laura realise she cannot deal with all this on her own. But by then it is too late: the villains are on to her and she is in deadly danger.
The supporting characters in this book are well-drawn and fully rounded. Calvin is the kind of generous uncle any young person would welcome, the vignettes about the different people who try to foster Laura are telling, and even the two dogs in the story have their own personalities. Best of all is her neighbour, from whom Laura gets much of her information. Mrs Crabtree is an enchanting and eccentric character in her sixties who bleaches her hair and wears exclusively pink, purple and orange. She loves nothing more than to gossip, seems to know everything that goes on, and is such a delight that in truth she deserves a book or two of her own. Laura herself is thoroughly likeable: she is warm and caring, endlessly curious, and she does not hesitate if she sees someone in need. This book was a pleasure to read, despite the fact that a lot of story was packed into a very few pages at the end, and its young readers will look forward eagerly to Laura's next adventure.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.
Further reading suggestion: You can read about another likeable young person who dreams of adventure and up ends solving a mystery in How Ali Ferguson Saved Houdini by Elen Caldecott, published July 2010.
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