Midnight Pirates by Ally Kennen

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Midnight Pirates by Ally Kennen

Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Linda Lawlor
Reviewed by Linda Lawlor
Summary: Miranda and her two brothers didn't really intend to miss the train to boarding school. But their home, the Dodo Hotel, is being sold, their parents are abroad and Jackie simply can't bear to live without his dog. Hiding out at home seems a good idea until they discover that trouble is stirring Dummity Bay.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 228 Date: January 2013
Publisher: Marion Lloyd Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781407129884

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It's hard to read this book without feeling a sea breeze on your face and sand between your toes, so vivid and so natural is the detail on every page. Pinkie-Sue and Cormac have been running the slightly dilapidated Dodo beach hotel for years, and their children have lived their whole lives in and out of the waves in Dummity Bay. Miranda swims like a fish herself and knows all the local seals and their habits, easy-going Cal talks of nothing but surfing and his girlfriend Doris, and Jackie scrambles over the rocks with his dog Fester whenever he can escape from the irritations of school and chores.

They love every minute of their lives at the rambling old hotel, despite the hard work and the shortage of cash, not to mention Hugo the ghost who is said to wander about the place at night. Eventually, however, the parents have to break the news to their children that the hotel is running at a loss — has been for years, in fact — and that it is up for sale. At the same time Cormac has at last finished the book he is writing and has been invited to go to America to meet his publisher, so he and Pinkie-Sue are taking the opportunity to visit family in Mauritius while the three children stay at a boarding school for a few weeks.

It is headstrong little Jackie who makes them miss the train and persuades them to return to the boarded-up hotel for a few days to hide out. And he's the one who fixes their cash-flow problem (they have no money for food, and soon get sick of the emergency rations of tinned beans stored in the outhouse) by arranging for a couple of passing tourists to stay with them. But life is never that simple, and it's not long before the strain of lying to their parents and hiding from the locals becomes almost too much for Miranda to bear. And then things get really bad: villains are hanging around the grounds at night, a guest turns nasty, and the whole bay is threatened with environmental disaster.

In some authors' hands this would have become a rollicking adventure, with baddies out-witted, dangers faced with a light heart and the absolute certainty of a happy-ever-after ending. Ally Kennen takes a different approach, which makes for a much more subtle, believable story. The adventure is not glamorised in any way: Miranda quickly gets sick of their diet of fried breakfast food, and when she is forced to dive into a rough sea it is both terrifying and painful. Cal, who is after all only sixteen, isn't the most adult and responsible of young men, insisting on talking to the coastguard in a strong Californian drawl even when their lives are in serious danger, but he does really try his best to keep his younger siblings out of harm's way. He clearly understands that some things are best dealt with by adults and that the best thing a trio of kids and a daffy dog can do is retreat as quickly and quietly as possible, and this refreshingly realistic approach is one of the many strengths of this book. It is not some idealised Enid Blyton romp, but a thrilling adventure with real, heart-stopping moments. The villain, when unmasked, will come as a surprise to most readers, which is how it should be, and the plot continues to twist and develop right to the very last page. This book is aimed at a slightly younger audience than most of Ally Kennen's books, but shows the same confident handling of character and setting. It's well worth reading.

Confident readers who enjoy books about likeable characters who find themselves in the midst of a thriller will enjoy Laura Marlin Mysteries: Dead Man's Cove and the next two in the series, Kidnap in the Caribbean and Kentucky Thriller.

Buy Midnight Pirates by Ally Kennen at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Midnight Pirates by Ally Kennen at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Midnight Pirates by Ally Kennen at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Midnight Pirates by Ally Kennen at Amazon.com.


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