Alice Eclair, Spy Extraordinaire! A Spoonful of Spying by Sarah Todd Taylor

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Alice Eclair, Spy Extraordinaire! A Spoonful of Spying by Sarah Todd Taylor

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A second spirited novel in this franchise, where our young heroine aces her cake icing once again whilst saving France from her enemies. Still resiliently for just a small age-range of readership, for those in the right bracket this will be tres, tres bon.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 272 Date: January 2023
Publisher: Nosy Crow
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781839940972

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Last time around, Alice Eclair had to prove herself as a spy and as a master at all things French and fancy and fondant, as the only way to save the day involved being an expert baker and icer on the French railways. Here, we start on a bateau-mouche in Paris, and even though the espionage isn't a complete success it proves to Alice and her handlers that things are afoot. And there will never be more feet than at the World's Fair, reviving the huge expo that gave the city the Eiffel Tower and this time showing all her interwar glories off to the world. Once again Alice will have to present the front to the world of being a humble yet world-class cake decorator, while seeking out clues. At stake? Pioneering flight technology that the enemy just cannot be allowed to smuggle out…

Finding out just who that enemy is, and how they're operating, is the task in hand for Alice. The first step proves to be to inveigle one of the fashion shows, but again this is a step that proves these books will never really be able to sit well with all ages of reader, proving them less than classics in my mind. It involves a huge contrivance, that may well pass the younger reader by but will stick out like a sore ladyfinger for anyone else. And once the handy bumping-into-people-just-because phase has passed, we get an action thriller with what could clearly be said to be too few characters involved to really befuddle its audience.

Oh, and the slapstick from the annoying cat is another thing ensuring this will only pass muster with under-twelves. So in a kind of topsy-turvy way I'll declare now I'm giving this a positive rating, as I can see the right readers thoroughly engaged by this, even if it became almost an ordeal to get through these few, fast-moving pages for myself.

So why is it to be commended so? Well, it's still as I say engaging. You have to manage to, or be of an age to, ignore the fantasy of the cake-making (and I still don't see the hunt for the perfect croquembouche as really being to the fore of anyone's adventure reading choice) and then it's fine. You have to be, dare I say it, immature enough to not worry about it never pinning down its exact historical setting – and then it's fine. You get to be up close and personal with Alice and all her travails, and her wonderment at flying vehicles and suchlike, meaning this is one character that can portray the mundane and the excitement of being a gung-ho, daredevil undercover agent perfectly well. And that is fine.

I must be getting generous in my old age, for I'm not always as diligent as some at giving star grades from the POV of the target audience if I find a read to be below par, or not to my taste. But I find it so easy to see this series really doing what it wants to do, in the same way the much-maligned penny dreadful of old would have done – served a purpose of bending your neck, fixing your attention and taking you away to somewhere else for a few short hours. I as the wrong reader was far too easily distracted from this, and I can see once more the older sibling of someone enjoying this not seeing what the fuss is about. But if you're slightly inexperienced in espionage adventures, and a touch less discerning than some age groups, the fun here will be enough – and of course if you have some of Alice's sweet tooth that will be the icing on the cake.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

More historical spy-based shenanigans can be had with the lively The Ministry of Unladylike Activity by Robin Stevens.

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Buy Alice Eclair, Spy Extraordinaire! A Spoonful of Spying by Sarah Todd Taylor at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Alice Eclair, Spy Extraordinaire! A Spoonful of Spying by Sarah Todd Taylor at Amazon.com.

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