Friday, 13 March 2015

Review: Diamonds and Daggers by Elen Caldecott

Piotr Domek was pretending  not to look. He sat with his back to the salon window, pretending he hadn't a care in the world, pretending this was any other regular, normal, ordinary kind of day. He wasn't watching the street outside. No way. He couldn't let Minnie think that. The only reason he had the mirror angled in his hand was because he was checking his fringe. He wasn't using the mirror to keep a careful, fixed, watchful eye on the street. Definitely not.

Published by Bloomsbury in February 2015
Pages - 216


Hollywood sensation, Betty Massino, has come to star in the theatre down the road and Piotr and his friends Andrew and Minnie couldn't be more excited! But when the famous actress's hugely expensive diamond necklace goes missing, Piotr's dad, a security guard at the theatre, is a prime suspect. Soon, Piotr faces the very real threat of being sent 'home' to Poland. With the help of Sylvie and her twin sister Flora, can Piotr, Andrew and Minnie solve the crime or will they lose Piotr forever?

 The name Elen Caldecott is synonymous with the modern Middle Grade mystery. When you pick up one of Elen's books, you know you are in for a thrilling adventure,  as you discover the secrets to the situation. Her latest book, Diamonds and Daggers is no exception. This is the first in a brand new series set in Marsh Road, which is based on a Lower Marsh in Lambeth, a street the author knew well. The author's familiarity with it is  clear as you read the book, as Marsh Road comes to life as  a character in its own right. It vibrates with life as you follow the street from dawn till dusk and you are quickly familiar with its day to day cycle, complemented by the fantastic map drawn at the beginning of the book.
The Marsh gang come together for the first time in this book and what an interesting bunch they are. Each  child stands out uniquely, coming from varying cultures and backgrounds, creating  a fabulous multicultural feel to the story. They quickly settle any differences they may have, showing that friendship always wins in the end.
I love the plot. I loved the idea of this huge American actress coming over and the reactions from everyone in town. It was like a MG version of Notting Hill. I thought having the story centred around a theatre was a thrilling idea. You can almost imagine yourself sitting in the audience, nervously anticipating the curtain going up.
You can't talk about this book and not mention the illustrator, Nathan Read. On the cover of the book, he has really brought the characters to life, creating identifiable characters that easily match Elen's descriptions. He is also responsible for the drawing of the map as well as the design of the stats cards at the back, which I am sure every kid will love. Who ever came up with the idea of the stats cards, really knows the Middle Grade market.
The book is told from varying viewpoints, but the story is mainly about Piotr, who might end up living back in Poland, if they can't solve the mystery of the missing necklace. His father is already fed up with the way he gets treated for being Polish, so it isn't surprising that he wants to leave the UK, returning to his own country, when he becomes a suspect in the burglary case.
This book gives us a modern day Famous Five, who I hope will be around as long as the originals. I'm pretty sure Enid Blyton would be praising Elen Caldecott for keeping mysteries fresh and original and in the forefront of children's fiction.

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