If you have watched the television series Mr Selfridge the you will immediately recognise the setting for this fast paced Victorian drama The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow.
"Through one archway was a rose-coloured room, in which elegant shop girls offered scent in pretty bottles. A display of coloured parasols dripped down from the ceiling like a waterfall of exotic hothouse flowers. ... There was so much to discover. A pianist in a white waistcoat played a grand piano on the fourth floor landing ..."
Mr Sinclair sounds just like Mr Selfridge
"He was an American, a self-made man, renowned for this elegance, the single, perfect orchid he always worse in his buttonhole, for the ever-changing string of beautiful ladies on his arm and, most of all, for his wealth."
Sophie Taylor has moved from a life of privilege to that of a working girl employed by Sinclair's, a new and very grand department store which will open tomorrow. Sophie's past life is only hinted at as we become swept up in the present and the major crime that occurs on the night before the store opening. One part of the new store is a beautiful exhibition hall and Mr Sinclair has plans to display his collection of treasures including a jeweled clockwork sparrow "encrusted with pearls and pink, yellow and blue sapphires (and) each time it is wound it will play an entirely different song."
Sophie is one of the last people sighted in the store the night before this serious crime is committed and so suspicion falls on her. What Sophie does not know is that this crime originates with one of the most notorious criminals living in London - the Baron. Sophie has been shunned by the other girls in the millinery department but she has found a true friend in Billy an apprentice porter. Together with Lil (Lilian Rose) and Joe, a young man who is on the run from the Baron. There are clues to unravel and codes to decipher.
Listen to the author talk about her inspiration for this book. I think this is a book middle grade and upper primary students will really enjoy. I would also suggest reading Withering-by-sea, The truth about Verity Sparks and Rooftoppers. You will see Katherine Rundell (author of Rooftoppers) has endorsed The mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow on the back cover. Click this quote below to read a review by Zoe at Playing by the Book.