Title: Dead Man’s Cove
Author: Lauren St John
Series: Laura Marlin Mystery #1
Genre: Mystery, Younger Readers
Summary (from Amazon)
When orphaned Laura Marlin moves from a children’s home to live with her uncle in Cornwall, she longs for a life of excitement just like the characters in her favourite detective novels. A real life adventure is on hand as she is deposited at her uncle’s spooky house . . . Why does her uncle, Calvin Redfern, forbid her to go to Dead Man’s Cove? What’s the truth about Tariq, the silent Indian boy who lives with the flamboyant Mukthars? Who is J? Who has left the message in a bottle for Laura to discover? Mysteries abound and who better to solve them than Laura Marlin, ace detective? Accompanied by her trusty companion, Skye, a three-legged husky, the dog she’s always wanted, Laura’s adventures begin.
What’s Good About It
It’s a charming little detective story, without being cutesy. There’s real threat and real danger, and serious issues explored within the narrative. Laura is a great character – very relatable, and admirable. She’s independent, intelligent, brave and loyal, but she has her flaws too, making her rounded and believable.
The progression of the mystery – starting with Laura trying to figure out her uncle, escalating to the grand plot behind everything gives the reader a nice sense of immersion into the story. The suspense and fear builds throughout the book slowly, leaving you on tenterhooks as the closing chapters approach.
Of course, we can’t ignore the fact that this is a children’s book – and with a main character aged 11, it is probably targetting 8-10 year olds as its main audience. One of the best things about Dead Man’s Cove is it manages to do everything I’ve mentioned above, keeping the prose simple enough for an 8 year old, yet without being condescending. I can’t say exactly what issues are being dealt with within the book without giving too much of the story away, but they are serious and complicated issues. Dead Man’s Cove challenges its audience, confronts them with some of the stark realities of the world, and it’s all the better for it.
What’s Not So Good
Some of the characters were a bit stereotyped, but they were mostly minor characters, and the main characters were developed and rounded enough for this to be easily forgiven.