Review: Mystery & Mayhem

Mystery and Mayhem

Mystery & Mayhem, from Egmont Publishing, is a collection of twelve short stories featuring sabotage, missing dogs, purloined jewels – and murder.

I like a good mystery. My first book, The Wreck of the Argyll, is often described as a “WWI spy thriller”, but for me it’s just as much a mystery, with my plucky young Dundonian detectives Nancy Caird and Jamie Balfour trying to get to the bottom of the enigma of Mr Simpson and his night-time perambulations. The (probably never-to-be-published) sequel, Murder at Eaglecrest, takes this a lot further – it begins with Nancy and Jamie attempting to solve a locked-room murder at a country house (before ending up in a WWI submarine chase involving deadly spies).

So this collection is right up my street, and features lots of writers I already follow – and indeed, have already included on my blog, like Caroline Lawrence, Katherine Woodfine and Robin Stevens.

The twelve stories are divided into four sections – Impossible Mysteries (locked-room cases, one of my favourite types of mystery), Canine Capers (involving dogs in the great tradition of Conan Doyle, whose monstrous hounds and curious incidents of dogs in the night-time provide inspiration), Poison Plots (involving a diverse array of poison-related cases), and Closed-System Crimes (where no-one but a limited selection of suspects can get in or out to commit the dastardly deed).

The settings range from the late 18th century through Victorian times, right up to the present day. We even have a trip to an alternative world where monsters are real courtesy of Julia Golding’s story about Mel Foster and the Monster Resistance. One thing remains constant across all the stories – the kids are smart, determined, and brave, and solve the crimes before the adults can. I approve!

Every story is worth reading, but if I had to pick out some stand-outs, I’d choose Mel Foster and the Hound of the Baskervilles by Julia Golding, purely because the inclusion of monsters in this resolutely real world-based anthology came as such a pleasant surprise; God’s Eye by Frances Hardinge for the depiction of London from the air (every time I read Ms Hardinge I despair for the leaden nature of my own prose); and Safe-Keeping by Sally Nicholls for the brilliantly engaging voice of her narrator Stanley. But they’re all great. Robin Stevens’ first foray away from posh 1930s girl detectives is worthy of Agatha Christie; Caroline Lawrence’s trip across the Atlantic for her cowboy-influenced tale provides a counterweight to the Eurocentric (and primarily British) setting for the rest of the volume; and Katherine Woodfine’s story of Lil from The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow and The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth will delight anyone who’s read those books.

There’s a lot of fun to be had trying to guess the solution to the mysteries before the kid detectives do; I wasn’t keeping score, so I don’t need to embarrass myself by telling you how many I got right. Let’s just say I got some of them, but nowhere near all of them – this is a devious collection of authors!

So if you like a good mystery, here are twelve of the best.

Review copy of Mystery & Mayhem provided by Egmont through NetGalley.


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