Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Small Change for Stuart, by Lissa Evans

Our holiday in north Wales has been enlivened by this brilliant book, written (and, on Audible, read) by Lissa Evans. Stuart is a small-for-his-age 10 year-old who moves house against his will, back to the town where his dad grew up - where there's an age-old family mystery waiting to be solved, if he's the right sort of boy to solve it.

The characters are great - the nosy triplets, the dad who only speaks in long words, the henchman identifiable from some distance by his dove - and the plot is full of twists and jokes and cliffhangers. Every so often we'd work out part of the puzzle just a step ahead of Stuart, making us active participants in the adventure. 

An age ago, the great Justin Richards advised me that in constructing a mystery plot, the reader should feel it's all twisty and zig-zag, so they have no idea where it is going; but at the end, when they look back on the route they have come, it should be a dead-straight line. I could see exactly what he meant when I read Dashiell Hammett, and here it is for kids. Exciting, funny, rich - and immensely satisfying.

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