Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Billionaire's Curse by Richard Newsome

I think fans of Indiana Jones will love The Billionaire’s Curse even though it is quite a predicable story with a heap of loose ends and in spite of a fairly unappealing (to me) cover.

Our hero Gerald (awful name but it has an important family connection) suddenly becomes the richest thirteen year old on the planet when he inherits twenty billion pounds… a house in Chelsea, the manor near Glastonbury, shares in the family company – the inventors of the tea bag staple, an island, a yacht, an aeroplane and various artworks. Gerald also inherits two mysteries. He needs to find out who murdered his aunt Geraldine and who has just stolen the Noor Jehan, the most valuable diamond in the world, from the British museum.

This robbery forms the basis of the first chapter and then we switch focus to Gerald and his appalling mother and long suffering father as they prepare to fly to England for the funeral and more importantly the reading of the will.

The last third of the book is particularly like an Indian Jones thriller as our hero and his two friends solve a puzzle to find a missing casket which it seems is more valuable than the diamond. In fact the diamond is the key that opens this casket which is rumored to hold the Holy Grail. I guess we will discover more about this in the second installment.

There are some terrific descriptions in this book and I especially liked the Young Billionaire’s survival kit left to Gerald by his aunt. “He tore the flap and pulled out a small leather wallet. He flipped it open, let out a low whistle and counted out two thousand pounds in crisp new notes. He also pulled out a black American Express card, with a neat Gerald A Wilkins embossed on the front….. every young billionaire needs some walking-around money.” Page 79

The intrepid heroes find the clues lead them to an exclusive gentleman’s club in London. “The floor was an intricate parquetry in a pattern of roses and ivy. In the centre was an enormous green carpet with the letter R woven in red in the middle. Long-green-and-gold-striped drapes lined the tall Georgian windows, blocking all outside light…. The place reeked of a mixture of wood polish, stale cigar smoke and privilege.” Page 145

This book contains nothing new for readers of detective stories but it is still a terrific read, fast paced, funny at times, filled with coincidences and three very brave and resourceful kids who work really well as a team. There are also rats, some knife slashing, murders and a cast of characters most of whom are not trustworthy. I hope we can read more about the butler Fry in the second installment.

You can read more about the Australian author who I have just discovered won a huge prize for this first novel. The second book is not yet published but you should keep your eye on the author web site for more details. You can also read the background to the writing and character names.

You should read this book to find out about tea bag staples - this is such a hilarious idea but it is how the Archer family have made their fortune. This book will appeal to readers in Years 4-6.


louise said...

Such a bad cover though! But will give it a go. Also, must read the Tensy Farrow...and I do remember Love That Dog once I saw the cover of Hate that Cat.A wonderful book.

Anonymous said...

I don't mind the cover - it's almost Japanese Manga cartoon-ish. Great read, I read it to my eight-year-old son who gave it two thumbs up, and my 12-year-old daughter devoured it and can't wait for book 2 (set in India, according to author's website)