Alice Eclair, Spy Extraordinaire! A Recipe for Trouble by Sarah Todd Taylor
|Alice Eclair, Spy Extraordinaire! A Recipe for Trouble by Sarah Todd Taylor|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: The intended readers are served really well by a most speedy and twisty spy fiction here. Their enjoyment may be tempered by having to protect the book's implausibility should their older siblings pick it up.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 220||Date: August 2022|
|Publisher: Nosy Crow Ltd|
|External links: Author's website|
Meet Alice Eclair. A perfect eye and very careful hands have made her one of Paris's best young cake makers and decorators, making sure her mother's establishment is a classy affair. Not bad for a thirteen year old. Oh, and a perfect eye and a very careful handler and remote trainer have also made sure she is a very competent young spy. Her first real mission will be to chase a traitor across the country – working behind the scenes on a posh sleeper train to the south of France, and hoping against hope that she can prevent documents allowing foreign agents to creep into the country from getting into nefarious hands. But while nobody would have her down as a spy, can she possibly leave behind her rookie status and find the baddy?
Make no mistake, this is a pell-mell riot of drama and action. The train's destination makes for an obvious deadline to fight against, the ruse that gets Alice on the vehicle in the first place can always be rumbled, and she still has to juggle her professional standards in the kitchen with her secret assignment. For an under-twelve audience this is just breathless, engaging stuff – just witness the early summary of the situation that makes you think this a sequel. It's not – it just needs to get things moving, and once things move, they never cease.
It's just... For an audience older than twelve this is really awkward. What she is supposed to do with a cake is beyond belief; what she is supposed to do when it comes to decorations on a rocking, speeding train is doubly so. Very little about her ruse rings true, and when the target reader knows little of the world of first class global travel (with apologies to those born with a Pullman silver spoon in their mouth) it needs to smack of the truth to lead the reader in. Heck, the reader doesn't even know when this is set, beyond a single reference to a real-world author, until it becomes really necessary. And don't get me started on how the English-speaking characters completely ruin the realism of any conversation they become a part of – is everyone now giving interjections of surprise in a second language, or does Alice also get to be fluent in English?!
So there are issues, and my doubts remain that the French cuisine aspects of the writing will be lapped up by all intended readers. But ignore the fantasy that the cooking is to be done in motion on board, and disregard the lack of realism in the character, and more, and you have as I say a rollicking ride. You will want her to crack all the codes, and see through all the people on board, where necessary, and most importantly get it all done in such a rarefied situation as a premiere kitchen. And you will relish finding out whether she manages it or not. The author, starting her second series with these pages, knows her way round a juvenile thriller and can deliver for that audience. I still hold by the theory a classic can be read by anyone anywhere, in whatever class of carriage – and I still hold by this being a disappointment to anyone outside the right age range. But in that age range? You're in for a journey.
I must thank the publishers for my review copy.
Looking for Emily by Fiona Longmuir is a mystery where you just cannot tell how realistic it is, as you wonderfully have no idea what is actually happening for much of it.
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You can read more book reviews or buy Alice Eclair, Spy Extraordinaire! A Recipe for Trouble by Sarah Todd Taylor at Amazon.com.
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