Looking for Emily by Fiona Longmuir

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Looking for Emily by Fiona Longmuir

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Buy Looking for Emily by Fiona Longmuir at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: Riveting blend of Enid Blyton stories of old with what she would come up with today. While the mix isn't the smoothest, none of the target readers will care a jot.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 272 Date: June 2022
Publisher: Nosy Crow
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781839942754

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Meet Lily. She and her mother have just moved from a city to a tiny seaside town called Edge, and everyone from said mother to her teacher are making demands of Lily that she make new friends. It turns out that she doesn't have any say in the matter, for while pretending when phoning home that she was with someone called Emily, she is unaware her neighbour, Sam, is just about to make herself known, and in a big way. But where does Emily come from? Well, Lily used that name because of what she'd just stumbled into – a mysterious collection of the most mundane objects, in some converted houses behind a most unassuming door, in a place calling itself 'The Museum of Emily'. Sam is completely unaware of this 'museum', too, leaving the two girls to make sure they leave no stone unturned in finding what's behind the intrigue...

While this quite brilliant set-up has been established, we've most economically been told a bit about Emily – that her mother has drowned, despite being a bit of a mermaid and despite the family coming from the line of Edge lighthousekeepers. But nothing explains the Museum, with its bulbs still glowing from the ceiling yet nothing more than exhibits and dust besides. Now, that economy does make for a perfectly page-turning mystery, but there is a little bit about it that makes me reluctantly say some things are too concise, pat and easy. Just witness the way the three investigators (for they've been joined by Jay with his perfect dark eyes and perfect dark braids) stumble upon a gang's base, as if this needed a bit more Blytonising. (I'd already seen the fact that Sam lives with two fathers as a bit of look Enid, look what you could have had if you'd been a bit more progressive.)

Witness too the way undeveloped photographs are no hurdle in their research – things do line up with a sign at the head of the queue saying unrealistic contrivance just that bit too often. The author also, as I saw the book at least, seems to take us through a whole montage of days at the investigative coalface, only to have Lily going to bed back on day one. But please, whatever you come away from this with, let it be the fact that these are mere nitpicks, and indicative of a larger flaw of mine, that I can discuss the negative til the cows come home, yet struggle with the positives.

And there are definitely, definitely, positives here. The very discovery of the Museum, the mysterious man – lots of this delivers a frisson of enticing excitement. This is a perfectly judged mystery for the under-twelves, and so what if the author went pell-mell through it all leaving tiny flaws here and there? I damned well went pell-mell through it too – well, until not one but two jaw-dropping beats stopped me dead in my tracks. Sure, one had crossed my mind, but not in anything but the vaguest of ways – mostly because of the momentum and the page-turning qualities.

It will be the adult readers who see the clunk as the book shifts from Blyton of old to Blyton of today, with some of the joins not quite ideal. But this is a book that still survives an adult reading it, and does so with aplomb – this is far too good to rest in the hands of the target age brackets. The intended audiences will find this an outstanding pick, with the eye-boggling scenario delivered with that ideal, dark edge, and only a pause in proceedings for lashings and lashings of seaside chippy chips.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

Utterly Dark and the Face of the Deep by Philip Reeve is more fantasy-based, but has a similar overwhelming feel from a fictional seaside.

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Buy Looking for Emily by Fiona Longmuir at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Looking for Emily by Fiona Longmuir at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Looking for Emily by Fiona Longmuir at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Looking for Emily by Fiona Longmuir at Amazon.com.

Looking for Emily by Fiona Longmuir Check prices, read reviews or buy from Waterstones. Waterstones currently charges from £2.75 for orders under £20, over which delivery is free. You may also click and collect from a Waterstones bookshop at no charge.

Looking for Emily by Fiona Longmuir Check prices, read reviews or buy from Foyles. Foyles currently charges £2.99 (first class £3.99) for orders under £25, over which delivery is free. You may also click and collect from a Foyles bookshop at no charge.

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