Cat Burglar by Tamsin Cooke is the story of Scarlet McCall, 13-year-old completely unremarkable schoolgirl by day, apprentice cat burglar by night. Her dad is in the business of stealing back stolen art and antiquities – and given that this involves balaclavas, night-vision goggles, and grappling hooks, Scarlet is only too happy to accompany her dad on his missions.
When they steal an ancient Aztec bracelet, things take a turn for the mystical. This is no ordinary archaeological find – it’s a magical artefact that gives Scarlet mysterious powers. Which is just as well, as the people who want the bracelet kidnap her dad, and she needs every bit of help she can get to rescue him before it’s too late…
If there’s one thing you can say about this book, it’s “blimey it’s fast paced!” From the initial heist, through Scarlet’s dad’s disappearance, through to the dramatic rescue, the pace doesn’t let up for a minute. I blasted through the book in two sittings – the last hundred and fifty pages in one go, even though it was past midnight and I had work this morning.
Scarlett is a great character, too. She’s been forced to be anonymous and unobtrusive – cat burglars don’t want anyone to notice them, ever – but when she needs to step up, she’s fierce and determined. Her growing understanding of her need to trust other people is touching – and Ethan, the gel-haired pretty-boy hacker who provides her with support, provides an excellent foil. She’s not just a vessel for the plot to advance, though, as she has her own values and morals – some of which provide a little comic relief when her vegetarianism comes into conflict with some of her new carnivorous abilities!
The Aztec mythology is woven seamlessly into the narrative, and provides fantastic depth to the story. It made me want to pop along to the British Museum to have a look at their artefacts from the Americas.
OUP have done a nice job with the book production, too. There’s a jaguar-pattern motif throughout the book, and a bright foiled cover that makes it virtually impossible to photograph! (Cover and inside illustration credit goes to “okili771/Shutterstock.com” which doesn’t sound like much of a name to me…)
The ending wraps up the story nicely, but even better, it sets us up for further adventures of Scarlet, her dad, and Ethan. Can’t wait. It has all the makings of a fantastic children’s series.