Rose Campion and the Stolen Secret by Lyn Gardner

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Rose Campion and the Stolen Secret by Lyn Gardner

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Linda Lawlor
Reviewed by Linda Lawlor
Summary: Thrilling mysteries, shady villains and family secrets – a thoroughly enjoyable start to a new series set in the Victorian music hall.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 320 Date: April 2016
Publisher: Nosy Crow
ISBN: 9780857634863

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The Victorian era in London – a time of expansion and exploration, but also of poverty, dark alleyways, youthful pickpockets and moustache-twirling villains. Well, so writers like Charles Dickens would have us believe, and readers can be pretty sure that a detective mystery set in the glittering world of the nineteenth century music hall will have colour, excitement and danger in profusion.

Thirteen-year-old Rose was left as a baby on the steps of Campion's Palace of Variety and Wonders, a music hall which glittered with the best in its day, but is now down on its luck. The big theatres up town have the money and resources to put on more exciting, more extravagant shows, and the regular team at the Campion must be ready to lend a hand whenever it's needed, be it performing, sewing costumes or running errands. This isn't helped, of course, by Thomas Campion's habit of taking in any wretched or needy souls who turn up on the doorstep – Rose herself included.

Rose loves her home family with a passion, and after a brief and rather turbulent stay at a private school is glad to be back with her unofficial family. Not that things are always easy: in his attempt to attract more customers Thomas has hired the Infant Phenomenon, a haughty and spiteful girl and her even more obnoxious aunt. Then people start to go missing, and a body is found in the river . . .

Cue the irrepressible Rose who, along with a couple of new friends, has to use all her wits and acting talent to solve the mystery – not to mention survive one or two really risky encounters with the villains. There are enough mistaken identities, murders and family secrets to even satisfy an audience brought up on the plot twists and coincidences beloved by Shakespeare, and a good dollop of humour lightens the occasional spot of horror. Young readers will be appalled, for example, to discover how wicked uncles and siblings used to dispose of inconvenient heirs so they could gain control of their fortunes – and all without breaking the law.

The story is a lot of fun and the author, a well-known theatre critic, clearly knows a lot of fascinating titbits about life on the Victorian stage and in the wings. There are moments when the reader might feel the need to colour-code the main characters, as their similar names and professions require a certain amount of concentration to keep clear, but the lively heroine and the brilliantly described setting make this a fairly minor difficulty.

There are several excellent mystery series set in the past with clever and determined girl detectives. Bookbag really enjoyed Murder Most Unladylike (Wells & Wong Mystery 1) by Robin Stevens and the sequels Arsenic For Tea and Jolly Foul Play, not to mention the highly popular The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow by Katherine Woodfine.

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Buy Rose Campion and the Stolen Secret by Lyn Gardner at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Rose Campion and the Stolen Secret by Lyn Gardner at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Rose Campion and the Stolen Secret by Lyn Gardner at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Rose Campion and the Stolen Secret by Lyn Gardner at


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