‘Lady in Red’ Tessa Buckley
Pursuing the truth can be a dangerous game…
School’s out for the summer, and Eye Spy Investigations have a new case – looking for Lady in Red, a lost masterpiece by Victorian painter, Gabriel Pascoe.
The clock is ticking for Alex and Donna, because the artist’s house, Acacia Villa, where their friend Jake lives, is due to be demolished, and vital clues may be destroyed. And Alex has an additional problem: he is terrified of snakes, and Jake has a pet snake called Queenie…
As the twins pursue their enquiries, they come up against the man who wants to demolish Acacia Villa. But Mr Mortimer is the godfather of their baby half-sister, Sophie, and criticising him could open up family rifts, which have only just healed.
Then Queenie goes missing, setting in motion a disastrous train of events that will turn the search for Lady in Red into the twins’ most dangerous case yet.
The third in the series of Eye Spy novels for “middle grade” readers aged between 8-12 sees intrepid investigation twins, Alex and Donna, on the trail of a lost Pre-Raphaelite painting.
I really enjoyed ‘Lady in Red’. What I’m going to say next might not sound like praise but it is: this novel is old fashioned, in the best sense of the word, and has all the hallmarks of the vintage Secret Seven or Famous Five, but updated for the modern age.
This is a world where adults are caring, but suitably hands off to let children go play and fall down coalholes. Where the children might be reckless, but they try to be respectful and really just want to help.
Investigations grind to a halt for family barbecues and time together with friends. Yes, there are the trappings of modern life – mobile phones, their eccentric, inventor father is on a second marriage and they have a half sister – but none of these things so often used for melodrama in heavier novels slows the plot down – find the old man’s painting and save his house from a dark suit wearing, boo hiss villain. Love it!
Buckley is clearly a talented writer. Her prose nips along like skipping children in a field of wheat and, as an author, she is clearly on the side of her adventurous protagonists.
She has really captured that blunt, nonsense, brutality of younger children. To whit, as Alex says:
“Although I felt sorry for Billie, I don’t like whiney kids, and she was beginning to get on my nerves.”
Or later, at his half-sister’s christening:
“When I pointed to what look like a pile of frogs’ eggs on little biscuits, Lucy laughed. “That’s caviar. You can try it, but you won’t like it.” She was right. I didn’t.”
I jut love that. You can hear Buckley relishing the little victories of these often overlooked voices and she’s clearly a skilled practitioner of the genre.
This is not a criticism at all, but an observation. There won’t be many 8 year olds who will find this an easy read and so it does present an excellent extension task for capable younger readers and a rip roaring, rollicking read for the lower secondary pupils.
However, this is wholesome family fun and a rip roaring adventure tale which parents could enjoy with their children.
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Author Bio –
Tessa Buckley was an inveterate scribbler as a child, and spent much of her time writing and illustrating stories. After studying Interior Design, she spent fifteen years working for architects and designers.
She took up writing again after her young daughter complained that she couldn’t find enough adventure stories to read. This led, in 2016, to the publication of Eye Spy, the first in a series for 9-12 year olds about two teen detectives.
There are now two more books in the series: Haunted, which was a finalist in the Wishing Shelf Book Awards 201, and Lady in Red.
She lives by the sea in Essex and recently completed an Open University arts degree.
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