Laura Marlin Mysteries: Kidnap in the Caribbean by Lauren St John
|Laura Marlin Mysteries: Kidnap in the Caribbean by Lauren St John|
|Genre: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Linda Lawlor|
|Summary: Laura has no idea, when she wins a dream holiday, that it will lead to kidnap, an active volcano, and an encounter with pirates. Once again, it is up to Laura and her friends to save the day.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 144||Date: July 2011|
|Publisher: Orion Children's Books|
|External links: Author's website|
Laura is an orphan who goes to live with her uncle Calvin in St Ives. He is the ideal guardian for the crime-and-detection-obsessed young girl, because his job is swathed in secrecy and involves a great deal of creeping out of the house late at night to meet mysterious strangers. But for now they can both relax: Laura has won a holiday for two in the Caribbean, and all she and Calvin have to do is sunbathe and swim. Needless to say, that isn't how things turn out.
To start with, her friend Tariq and her dog Skye somehow get stuck on the cruise ship with her. Then uncle Calvin falls downstairs and is confined to his cabin with two sprained ankles. The scene is set, the characters are in place, and just like in one of Laura's beloved Matt Walker stories, the adventure begins in earnest. Laura and Tariq amuse themselves during the cruise by playing a game: can they trick the other passengers into thinking they are both real detectives, on the trail of a villain? Having disaster-prone Jimmy Gannet foisted on them by his embarrassing parents is a bit of a problem, but that's nothing to the crisis they face when uncle Calvin goes missing and no one will believe he ever existed. It would seem things could hardly get any worse, but as they dock at Antigua a couple of complete strangers come on board and insist Laura and Tariq are their adopted children. Helpless, alone in a foreign country and in the hands of their deadliest enemies, the two children have to summon every ounce of skill and courage to survive.
An adult reader might quibble at how conveniently certain plot problems are resolved, like how a boy and a three-legged Siberian husky manage to stay on a cruise ship without tickets, and how an adult can spend a whole cruise without being seen by the crew, but that would be to miss the point. Such matters are not the main concern for the average ten-year-old reader, who just wants to get on with the action. And there is action aplenty here. Pirates, sharks, villains and volcanoes play their part, and the exotic locations only serve to increase the drama. They find allies in the most unexpected places, but it is still a tense, occasionally terrifying adventure as they race to rescue their uncle without being caught themselves. The setting and the conservation theme may be utterly modern, but what we have here is, in essence, a good old-fashioned adventure story where villains are thoroughly bad and the heroes ensure they get their come-uppance after a series of breath-taking adventures and near-misses.
Laura herself is a delightful character. Living for years in care has taught her to be independent, resourceful and brave, and you cannot help but feel that if anyone deserved to find a loving and caring family, it is she. Fortunately, her innate kindness and generosity have not been eroded by the experiences she endured in a series of foster homes, and on the one occasion she is tempted to be mean to someone, Tariq is there to gently put her straight. She is bright and funny, oozing enthusiasm and a dogged determination to find out the truth, and readers will be delighted to know she is to have a further two adventures. In short, a thoroughly good read from a highly respected author.
Many thanks to Orion for sending this thrilling tale to Bookbag.
Further reading suggestion: You don't have to read the first Laura Marlin book, Dead Man's Cove to enjoy this one, but it's a lovely story and was the overall winner of the Blue Peter Book Awards for 2011. And Elen Caldecott writes cracking good adventure stories too, like How Kirsty Jenkins Stole the Elephant and How Ali Ferguson Saved Houdini.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.