Kate on the Case by Hannah Peck
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|Kate on the Case by Hannah Peck|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: We saw two things here – that fun would be had by the young mystery reader, but also the gap between this series opener and perfection.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 160||Date: July 2021|
|Publisher: Piccadilly Press|
Meet Kate, although I got the impression she'd rather be a Catherine – and one specific Catherine at that. For Catherine Rodriguez is Kate's idol, and the author of our heroine's favourite possession, The Special Correspondent Manual. Armed with a plucky father, that book, and her talking mouse called Rupert, she is all equipped to manage a train ride to the Arctic, to see her scientist mother for the first time in yonks. However, this is a train ride with a difference, for on board is a greedy-seeming harridan and her cat, a thief – and two glowing eyes, shining from the darkness in a blink-and-you'll-miss-them style. It's definitely a case for a new young investigative journalist...
Many good things can be said about this book for the very young. It wastes no time in building a world, and even though it's a series opener it doesn't do the usual thing of giving us setting, character and only half a story as a result. This is definitely one full adventure from the off, with no dressing or filler. It has the chutzpah to ignore the illogicality of it all – some animal characters that talk and some that don't, and other things that to an adult reader would seem a little peculiar. It also kind of manages to thrust a moral into the drama as well.
Unfortunately, all is not rosy. On reflection, and I know this is an adult's POV and not the thoughts of the intended reader, this seemed a little less than spectacular. Kate has quite a paucity of character, and the feel of the piece is only made distinctive by the character of the whole enterprise, a sleeper train with hardly anybody on it going from somewhere to The International Polar Station's, er, station. Throughout I was reminded of the couple of books I've read in Angie Lake's Mina Mistry (sort of) Investigates franchise, which make more of an industrious hothead of their heroine, and even though her companion, a stuffed toy, remains a non-speaking part, he seemed to have more about him than our mouse, Roo, here. I can only imagine a large overlap between the two series' audiences.
Still, my quibbles about the moral being in the wrong place, the fate of the other passengers being ignored by the end, and a couple of other questions, will not be in the mind of the target audience. And here I feel OK with being more generous with the book, for it is a heck of a lot better than some things they could be reading, and I can definitely see them quite engrossed here. I maintain it's not the best example of its kind, but in being lively enough, and by putting some special-seeming bells and whistles on the page (a character who talks in verse, white-ink-on-black-pages to symbolise a night-time scene, etc), fun is definitely to be had.
I would like to thank the publishers for my review copy.
The Great Hamster Massacre by Katie Davies started an award-winning cycle of animal-themed books featuring a lot of junior detective work – even if the title is a little off-putting. Only a year or two older and you get to read the likes of Luna Rae is Not Alone by Hayley Webster, which features a slightly different kind of investigation, for very different purposes.
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