|Laura Marlin Mysteries: Kentucky Thriller by Lauren St John|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Linda Lawlor|
|Summary: Laura and her friend Tariq help rescue a stolen racehorse, and as a reward they are invited to America to watch the famous Kentucky Derby. But the danger is not over for the horses of Fleet Farm, and Laura is once again called upon to use her skill as a detective.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 144||Date: August 2012|
|External links: [www.laurenstjohn.com Author's website]|
Detective stories for young people can be a lot of fun, and the Laura Merlin Mystery series by Lauren St John is a prime example of the genre. In this, the third book about mystery-loving Laura and her friend Tariq, the action moves to America and treats us to a thrilling adventure involving horses, thieves and sabotage.
One of Lauren St John's many excellent qualities as a writer is her ability to create a sense of place, and readers could easily imagine themselves admiring the multi-coloured barns and famous bluegrass of Kentucky, tucking into an early-morning waffle with maple syrup or galloping along a track under a peacock-blue sky on a palomino mare as they accompany Laura and Tariq on their holiday. It is an aspect of American life not often covered in children's TV series, which seem, most often, to be town-based, and thus it gives the reader a fascinating insight into another, less familiar aspect of US culture. The details provided are lightly woven into the narrative, but you are left at the end with a strong impression of the surroundings and the atmosphere at Fleet Farm. Beautiful racehorses, suspicious-looking grooms and oddly convenient accidents are set against the backgrounds of ranch life, a circus with a truly scary Haunted House and the Kentucky Derby, with all its possibilities for danger, drama and triumph.
While Laura is the true heroine of the books, using the precepts and example of her detective hero Matt Walker to solve cases, it is lovely to see Tariq in a starring role this time. He endured a brutal, miserable existence before he met Laura, but now he is a cheerful and confident boy who happily spends his time (when he isn't solving mysteries with his best friend) helping his foster father in his veterinary practice. Tariq has a real way with animals and it is this, as much as the children's rescue of Gold Rush, that prompts the horse's owner Blake Wainwright to invite the children to his farm. To see Tariq as a full member of the detecting team, rather than just a victim as he was in the first book, is a heart-warming and satisfying development of the overall plot—not to mention a testament to the positive effects of fostering.
Laura and Tariq have special gifts, and the courage and determination to use them. Laura is highly observant, and even when the adults around her reject her deductions she persists until every mystery is solved to her satisfaction. Tariq is able to calm and reassure animals, even a terrified horse, and when he does not succeed he simply goes back and tries again. But these two are still, at all times, real children, and despite their gifts they live in a world which will be readily recognised and identified with by their young fans. They are offered the chance of a lifetime, to have a free holiday on a horse farm and attend the famous Derby, but of course, like everyone else, they have to take school rules on term-time breaks into account. Fortunately a little financial persuasion on Blake Wainwright's part gets them the necessary permission—but also a ton of extra homework to take with them. Who couldn't imagine their own school doing that?
All in all, then, this is a well-told story full of excitement and adventure. There is plenty of information about farms and racing to please animal lovers, and a plot which is sufficiently realistic for readers to dream of solving similar mysteries themselves. Fans new and old of Laura Marlin will thoroughly enjoy it, and will be keeping their fingers crossed that Laura will soon be back to beat the bad guys and solve further crimes.
There's no need to read the first two books in the series to enjoy this one, but they're so good it would be a pity to miss them. Read Laura Marlin Mysteries: Dead Man's Cove (which won the Blue Peter Award) first, to see how Laura left the orphanage and was adopted by her lovely uncle, and then move on to Laura Marlin Mysteries: Kidnap in the Caribbean.
You can read more book reviews or buy Laura Marlin Mysteries: Kentucky Thriller by Lauren St John at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Laura Marlin Mysteries: Kentucky Thriller by Lauren St John at Amazon.com.
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