CM . . .
. Volume XXIII Number . . . .March 17, 2017
Reddington’s three novels introduce readers to Mabel Hartley, a 14 year-old with an affinity for mystery and adventure, just like her father, a Lymington police inspector. In Saphhire Moon, Mabel enrolls at Hollingsworth Preparatory, a British boarding school where she makes friends with Tabby and Hugh, endures bullying by rich girl Edwina, and helps to solve her father’s police case when she finds some missing Chagall paintings hidden at the school.
In Mummy’s Cape, the three sleuths, now 15, travel to Inverness, Scotland, to spend the summer. They become involved in a search for Bronze Age treasures in a peat bog behind the mansion where they are staying. In addition, Mabel gets her first kiss (from Hugh) and discovers some secrets about her own birth.
The Crusader’s Hoard finds the trio off to an archaeological dig in Petra, Jordan, the following summer. There they participate in an archaeological dig, work at translating some scrolls written by a female knight who participated in the Crusades, and worry that Mabel’s birth parents (who are international thieves) will try to abduct her.
While it’s clear that Reddington has invested much time in historical research for these books, her prose is not strong. The stories are filled with many extraneous details, including that Mabel’s mom has a younger, heavier sister who is mentioned but never appears in the stories. Much of the narrative features long sections of background information that tell, rather than show, resulting in a somewhat didactic feel to the story. And many sections are awkwardly phrased: “The next day we drove to Tabby’s house in the heart of the New Forest. It’s one of my favourite places on earth. Wild horses run free there and you feel like Robin Hood himself might pop out from behind the trees and hand you a bag of gold.” Additionally, the dialog too often feels stilted (the use of shan’t) or anachronistic (“My life sucks” was not common usage in the 1980s when these stories are set), and some of the phrasing suggests adult rather than teen speak (“Are you all right, Hugh? You’re awfully quiet.” “I’m just taking all this in. Thanks for being a good sport.”).
Those looking for action and adventure featuring British teens would be better served by Alan Bradley’s “Flavia de Luce” series, beginning with The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie.
Kay Weisman works as a youth services librarian at West Vancouver Memorial Library and chairs the Children’s Literature Roundtables of Canada’s Information Book Award.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.