Rachel Watts is a country raised girl, living in Melbourne after her family left their farm. James Mycroft is her eccentric neighbour and best friend,Rachel Watts is a country raised girl, living in Melbourne after her family left their farm. James Mycroft is her eccentric neighbour and best friend, with a keen interest in forensics and investigation. When they discover a homeless friend has been killed, it is inevitable that they’ll find themselves in the depths of investigation.
I first noticed this book when it started getting excellent reviews through the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge. Then my friends discovered it and I knew that I had to read it right now. Every Breath is a witty and fun detective story, with terribly interesting characters and a really strong sense of place. The Watts/Mycroft pairing (with self-aware nods to the Sherlock Holmes canon) is a well-written and strong relationship – but just as importantly, Watts and Mycroft are strong, independent characters individually who are able to get things done on their own.
One thing that really impressed me in the book was the diversity of characters. It’s sad that this really stood out, that the world of the book felt like the world I see around me in our local schools and our local shops. I particularly liked the care taken with descriptions, to give characters an individuality without plunging into stereotype. I think all childrens and YA authors (and screenwriters etc) should read this as a starting point for their own work – it would be wonderful to see more and more diverse books building from books like this.
The struggles of the different families in the book, also added to the depth of it. I read a criticism of YA books (I think it was based in the US) for being too firmly set in middle and upper-middle class backgrounds. That definitely isn’t the case here as Rachel and her family all work and look at ways to save money as a family. It’s a cause of conflict at times, too, which felt very real.
The mystery was interesting, though I did pick ‘who-dunnit’ quite early on. I liked the way that Mycroft and Watts didn’t get a free pass through the police departments (or from their schools) to go about their investigating. I’m found the final scenes of the mystery a little silly, but by then I was so wrapped in the book, that I just went with it.
There haven’t been a lot of notable mystery stories published in Australian YA and Children’s books over the past few years, so it’s great to see this series doing so well. I have to admit that I’m putting off the second book just a little bit longer so I don’t have a bit wait until the third which comes out in March, but I’m not sure how much longer my will power can last! If you haven’t read these books yet, I highly recommend getting your hands on them – and I’d definitely recommend that they find a place in high school libraries!
This was a very fast-moving book, but I felt that it actually moved too fast and had too many elements. There are references to Sherlock Holmes, to stThis was a very fast-moving book, but I felt that it actually moved too fast and had too many elements. There are references to Sherlock Holmes, to steam punk elements, to the First World War, to suffragettes, to Nazism and to the development of inventions including the atomic bomb. As an adult, it’s a little exhausting. I also wonder how many child readers would ‘get’ all the references (there were some I vaguely got, but couldn’t explain) and if they’re not accessible to the core readership, are they all necessary?
Another consequence of the fast pace was that the book felt a little too unreal. I was reminded of the Mary Russell, the CHERUB and the Ranger’s Apprentice books when I read The Firebird Mystery, and the way the main characters had to go through a period of training before getting involved in mysteries or adventures. The longer training time also gave the characters time to develop relationships with their mentors (or in CHERUB, with their follow CHERUB agents and handlers). All of that felt lacking in The Firebird Mystery, so it felt a little unreal when Jack talked about the relationship with his mentor, when we’d barely seen them spending any time together.
Putting aside the crowded feeling of the book, it is a really well written mystery – I definitely didn’t pick who-dunnit before it was revealed. The writing was engaging and I was hooked to keep reading until the end. There are definitely young readers who would be hooked by the book, and those who understood the references would probably be amused by them.
All in all, though, I wished that the different elements of the story had been pared down. It felt a little like I was reading two or three stories in one – spreading them out over two or three books would have given space for the characters to breath and the good writing to shine. I feel like this is an author who can write a really, really good adventure book – but I don’t feel like this is the book.
It’s been a while since I’ve read a crime/detective novel, and I tend to be really hit and miss when I do read them. I’ve never read them with the intIt’s been a while since I’ve read a crime/detective novel, and I tend to be really hit and miss when I do read them. I’ve never read them with the intention of ‘catching’ the criminal, I prefer to be taken along for the ride wherever it might take me. Which is why Katherine Howell’s Cold Justice was such a great read – it was definitely an exciting ride to be taken on!
I knew nothing about this series when I first picked up the book, so for the first couple of chapters I really felt like I’d been thrown in the deep end. I’ve since learned that Katherine Howell focuses on the same detective each book, but a different pair of paramedics – so all readers would have been thrown in the deep end with one part of the story. Lucky, it doesn’t take very long for the pieces to start to fall into place, and it’s an excellent chance for my inference skills to get a work out.
Ella Marconi is a detective coming back to the job after being shot. She’s been put on to a Cold Case to work out what happened to a 17 year old boy, Tim Pieters, who was killed nineteen years earlier. The girl who found the body, Georgie, is now a paramedic on ‘review’ after suffering workplace abuse in her old position. She comes to the attention of Ella, as well as her partner Freya who just happened to be an old school friend. Then there’s Tim’s family, who are all dealing with the reopening of the case in different and sometimes very strange ways.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I loved the different characters, the way the plot unravels and the way things interact. I really enjoyed the paramedics story and the way it interacted with Ella’s story. It may have been a little convenient the way it all came together by the end of the book – but I suppose that it sometimes the way it works in the real world – and a case that wasn’t solved by the end of the book, wouldn’t be half as interesting.
There’s a lot of positive talk around about Katherine Howell’s latest book in the series, and I will have to track it down! I really want to read more of this series and spend some more time with this fascinating character and different approach to crime fiction.
I was drawn to this book when I saw it on display at the library, and I’m very, very glad I was. It’s a children’s book (suitable from around 8 yearsI was drawn to this book when I saw it on display at the library, and I’m very, very glad I was. It’s a children’s book (suitable from around 8 years and above) set in Sydney, combining mystery, history and adventure in one big Famous Five-esque story. It’s about 4 children, including a brother and sister, who were probably closer friends some time before the story started, but still get together every now and then to hang out. One day, a change in tidal conditions leads them to a cave, and beyond that a network of tunnels beneath the old ‘ghost house’. Only, the secret they’ve uncovered may not be as secret as they hoped, as strange men begin to watch what they are doing.
There’s a lot to like about this book. I came to it in a funny mood, too caught up in something else I was reading, so the simpler language and ‘jump straight into the story’ approach jolted me at first. It took me a little while to appreciate the beauty of that, the way the characters – David, Andrea, Martin and Kitty – are ‘unpeeled’ as the story progresses. There’s something very real about the difference among the children – for example, David goes to a selective school; Andrea and Martin are at the same school, but Andrea struggles while Martin thrives; Kitty is younger than the others and still at a primary school, thinking about the possibility of a selective school for the future. There’s no pretending that the friends are all alike, or that their interests necessarily overlap. What does overlap is a shared path and an interest in the ghost house and the tunnels beneath it.
The mystery part of the story is well done too. There’s a real atmosphere created in the tunnels, and the history around them is based on actual history – so another piece of ‘our’ story is being told. It’s acknowledged that different cultures came together to create the community that the children live in, but also that things could be very difficult for some of the residents. The only thing that bothered the teacher/parent in me, was that the children didn’t go to an adult for help when they were being attacked by adults who were strangers – it didn’t ring quite true considering the amount of effort being put into teaching children about safety these days.
This is a book which would make a great read-aloud in an older classroom. It demonstrates the mystery genre really well, and I’d encourage teachers and teacher librarians to book talk and share it. Depending on the age of the children reading it, they might want to explore some Famous Five books or look towards a book like A Whole Nother Story (which is hilarious) or Lemony Snicket. A slightly older reader might even enjoy Trixie Belden (which they keep re-releasing) or they could try the awesome Mosquito Advertising books (which are set in Brisbane so are double awesome).