Monday, January 2, 2017

Nooks and Crannies by Jessica Lawson illustrated by Natalie Andrewson

A plucky amateur detective, secret passages, exaggerated characters, concealed identities, and dastardly villains equal a swell mystery.

Readers will delight in the unexpected twists and turns at every junction.

Three cheers for Nooks & Crannies, a book that elevates misdirection to an art form. When you think you’ve settled into familiar plot lines, think again. What fun!

Nooks and Crannies is a long (315 pages) and quite complex book but avid readers with perseverance will be rewarded when they discover, on the final pages, what is really happening at country estate of the reclusive Countess of Windermere and what are her motives for gathering together these six eleven year olds.

Tabitha and five other children, a total of three girls and three boys, all receive an invitation which says in part :

"No response is required as all children/parents are fully expected to attend.  I look forward to your presence and trust that it will be a profitable weekend for all.  Your discretion is advised, assumed and appreciated."

Tabitha Crum has a life like Matilda (Roald Dahl) - her parents seem to find her an irritating inconvenience.  In fact they have plans to send her to an orphanage but then this mysterious invitation arrives. Why are these children summoned by Camilla Lenore DeMoss, Countess of Windermere?

"Twelve years ago my son Thomas ran off and eloped with a woman of no education ... a little over a year later they both died in a boating accident.  Their six-month-old child was .... sent to an orphanage."

Camilla has discovered the name of the orphanage.  These six children were also dropped off there in May 1895.  None of the children know they are orphans but which one is the grandchild and heir to the Countess?

Oliver Appleby
Viola Dale
Frances Wellington
Barnaby Trundle
Edward Herringbone
Tabitha Crum

You will feel as though you are reading a book from England perhaps even an Agatha Christie mystery but Jessica Lawson is an American author.  The butler is of course not to be trusted and why does the 'Countess' wear gloves?  The house also has mysterious locked rooms and secret passages with spy holes.  One of the quirky aspects of this book comes from the little chapter headings taken from a fictitious detective book series with alliterative titles such as :

The case of the Speckled Spyhole
The case of the Galley Ghosts Gumption
The case of the bilious Banker
The case of the Enigmatic Encumbrancer
The case of the Maudlin Mariner

Each chapter also begins with a quote which links neatly with the chapter contents.

You can also see from this list of book titles that Jessica Lawson is not afraid to include quite complex words into her writing.  Here are a few examples from the first chapter :

Reading this book you may be reminded of The Mysterious Benedict society, The truth about Verity Sparks and  The mystery of the Clock Work Sparrow.

You can listen to a five minute audio sample here.  Take a look at some of the illustrations by Natalie Andrewson.  Each of the quotes at the top of this post will take you to reviews with even more plot details.

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