Nancy Parker's Spooky Speculations by Julia Lee

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Nancy Parker's Spooky Speculations by Julia Lee

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Anne Thompson
Reviewed by Anne Thompson
Summary: This is an enjoyable historical crime mystery with an endearing heroine, a dash of humour and a touch of modern sassiness. It's great fun for confident readers of about 9 plus.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 256 Date: January 2017
Publisher: OUP Oxford
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0192746979

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Nancy Parker, likeable maidservant, and part-time super sleuth, returns in this enjoyable mystery story set in 1920. Nancy is delighted to be rescued from her job on the fruit and vegetable market stall when she is offered the job of housemaid at an old house by the sea, thanks to her old friend Ella who lives nearby. However strange noises and bumps in the night coupled with ghostly appearances soon disturb Nancy's contentment. The two friends team up and decide to investigate the mysterious happenings. However all does not go smoothly for our young heroines as they cope with unfriendly neighbours, spooky cellars and Nancy's kindly but eccentric boss.

The format of this jolly adventure is in third person narrative for Ella's part of the story and as an illustrated journal for Nancy's point of view. This type of diary format is very popular with readers and Nancy's endearing nature and humour adds to the appeal. Sadly she is not very good at spelling which I found mildly irritating at first but accepted as part of Nancy's character as the story progressed! Letters from Nancy's Grandma and Aunt are included as are Nancy's replies which increase the personal feel.

Nancy is a fan of Penny Dreadfuls and consequently is convinced that there is a supernatural cause for the mysterious noises. Ella on the other hand is of a more down to earth approach and keeps looking for logical explanations. There is plenty of humour too in both Ella's confrontations with her teachers and Nancy's struggles to be a professional housekeeper. The arrival of unpleasant anonymous letters however gives another dimension to the plot and the investigations take a slightly different turn. Nancy's boss, Miss Dearing, has turned the former stately home into a donkey sanctuary and it would appear that this is not popular with all. The story is slightly slow to start but from the halfway point zips along with just enough in the way of clues to keep young readers intrigued. I did like the ending and any story with secret tunnels gets my vote. The loose ends are tied up well and the way is left clear for further development of the characters in future books.

There is a delightfully old fashioned charm to this story despite the more current attitudes of the two leading characters and I think this would appeal to confident readers of about 9 plus. Although this is the second in Julia Lee's series featuring Nancy it works perfectly well as a stand-alone story. There is a real growth in the popularity of crime fiction for this age group at the moment and this series looks as though it will fit in with this perfectly.

Thank you to the publishers for providing this review copy.

If you would like to try another crime story for this age group I would highly recommend Murder Most Unladylike (Wells & Wong Mystery 1) by Robin Stevens. Julia Lee's first novel for children The Mysterious Misadventures of Clemency Wrigglesworth is another charming historical tale with a likeable heroine.

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Buy Nancy Parker's Spooky Speculations by Julia Lee at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Nancy Parker's Spooky Speculations by Julia Lee at


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