The Secret Starling by Judith Eagle

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The Secret Starling by Judith Eagle

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Anne Thompson
Reviewed by Anne Thompson
Summary: This accomplished debut contains all the components that create a great mystery adventure for children. The relationship between the two main characters is very appealing and the well plotted storyline includes dangerous villains, twists and high drama to enthral young readers.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 272 Date: May 2019
Publisher: Faber & Faber
ISBN: 978-0571346301

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Clara has lived in the crumbling Braithwaite Manor owned by her guardian, Uncle Edward, since she was a baby. It has been a lonely life as her uncle is strict and forbidding and she has been home schooled. Her only friend is Cook who looks after Clara with kindness and tells her stories of her own family and their adventures. Clara has recently become aware that something is wrong as many of the prized possessions such as paintings and porcelain are disappearing and then cook is dismissed. Shortly afterwards Uncle Edward abandons Clara in the local village with a fistful of money and disappears. Clara is now totally alone.

Clara is remarkably sanguine about her predicament and returns to the manor determined to do things her way for a change but then her plans are disrupted by the arrival of Peter from London complete with his rescue cat, Stockwell. The two children quickly become friends and decide that they can survive alone in the manor in the middle of the windswept moor. However, they had not bargained for the house being put up for sale and long hidden secrets gradually being revealed. A mystery unfolds with twists and revelations that shock them both and they have to be ever more resourceful to cope with their changing circumstances.

I loved this charming story. The adults are despatched early on so that the children quickly take centre stage in the ensuing adventure and the setting is wonderfully and realistically described. Set in 1974 the author has cleverly ensured that devices such as mobile phones and the internet do not interfere with the plot and I enjoyed the touches such as consulting old newspapers at the library to solve the mystery. There are some lovely moments that bring that era to life such as TV programme references, favourite foods and places, all of which I recognised with nostalgia and today’s children would probably find interesting.

Clara and Peter make an immensely likeable duo, being both capable and independent but sensitive and kind too. Peter is a mix of street-wise and artistic and his love for ballet should hold great appeal for dance lovers. The cameo appearance by Rudolf Nureyev is an unexpected delight. There is an excellent supporting cast of characters too. The other children are great fun, particularly Amelia-Ann who warrants a story of her own. The baddies are deliciously bad and the story is resolved in a manner which children will greet with a happy sigh. This is a great adventure mystery that manages to have an old fashioned air about it but will also appeal to contemporary readers. Thank you to the publishers, Faber Children’s Books for providing this review copy. The very appealing cover is by Kim Geyer.

If you would like to read another mystery adventure set in another time I would suggest Murder Most Unladylike (Wells & Wong Mystery 1) by Robin Stevens

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Buy The Secret Starling by Judith Eagle at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Secret Starling by Judith Eagle at


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