The Magical Detectives and the Forbidden Spell by Brian Keaney

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The Magical Detectives and the Forbidden Spell by Brian Keaney

Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Ali Baker
Reviewed by Ali Baker
Summary: A fast-paced adventure with a magical detective and his young assistants.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 224 Date: July 2011
Publisher: Orchard Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1408306826

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In the sequel to The Magical Detectives, Otto Spinoza, Maximillian Hawksmoor and Juliet Pennington are the Magical Detective Agency. The small town of Bridlington Chawley is unexpectedly hosting a performance by the celebrated hypnotist, Madame Sikursky. Although he is sceptical about hypnotism, twelve year old Otto finds he is unexpectedly sensitive to her voice, and is regressed to Ancient Babylon, where he witnesses the creation of a clay tablet holding a spell of great destruction. Only a timely diversion at the theatre stops him from giving the location away. On leaving the theatre, the friends are captured by two thugs with guns, and discover that there are several people after the spell for their own reasons, and again they must travel to the magical world of Quillipoth via a portal in the fountain of a local stately home, find the thief who has stolen the clay tablet from the British Museum and escape from the murderous elementals who inhabit the magical world, with the help of Cornelius, Juliet's talking cat, a beautifully sardonic creation.

The story is told from Otto's point of view, and I would have liked more description of the other two protagonists. I found it especially hard to picture Juliet, who carries out two of the main pieces of investigation. She is definitely not a weedy girl sidekick, and is not treated as such by Maximilian and Otto (sadly, even now, post Hermione Grainger, girls can be portrayed this way in children's books). Peculiarly I found it easier to picture the incidental characters. It is possible that reading the first novel may help me to flesh Juliet and Max out. There is a "note to the reader" at the front of the novel giving newcomers the backstory of the Magical Detective Agency, so it is not necessary to read the first book in the series to follow the plot, although I intend to do so. The preamble tells us that Otto is no ordinary boy, but is descended from Balshazzar, the ruler of ancient Babylon, and that he is in fact 150 years old; he was brought to Bridlington Chawley through the magical portal; I anticipate that there are more adventures to come, with Otto developing special powers.

The cover of the book reminded me strongly of the covers of the post- Harry Potter reissues of the wonderful Diana Wynne Jones' Chrestomanci novels. I feel that these books were aimed at a slightly younger audience though; certainly the vocabulary would be perfectly manageable for confident eight year old readers. There are some great, funny moments in the novels; in particular the love-struck secretary of one of the villains, and a blood thirsty, tea offering elemental- some great "yuck" moments, too, that would very much appeal to children! I look forward to reading more Brian Keaney, and will certainly go back and read the first book in the series.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

Further reading suggestion: Jenny Nimmo: Charlie Bone and the Red Night has the fantasy and magical elements with a mystery to solve; Saxby Smart: Private Detective: The Secrets of the Skull by Simon Cheshirefor more straightforward detective stories.

Buy The Magical Detectives and the Forbidden Spell by Brian Keaney at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Magical Detectives and the Forbidden Spell by Brian Keaney at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Magical Detectives and the Forbidden Spell by Brian Keaney at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Magical Detectives and the Forbidden Spell by Brian Keaney at Amazon.com.


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