Atticus Claw Hears a Roar by Jennifer Gray
|Atticus Claw Hears a Roar by Jennifer Gray
|Category: Confident Readers
|Reviewer: John Lloyd
|Summary: Seven books in this series shows no signs of major failure, even if it goes way beyond the provincial charms it started with.
|Date: February 2016
|Publisher: Faber and Faber
|External links: Author's website
If you haven't already, meet Atticus Claw. This is the seventh chance you've had, may I mention. He was an outstanding burglar, but now, as he is 'owned' by the children of a policeman, he has come over to the light side, and is solving crimes and not causing them – which is especially important as no end of criminality has been going on. Chancing on a lost explorer's lost treasure chest, mysterious clues are dropped to lead both goodies and baddies on the trail of jaguar gods, once worshipped by the Maya – did they really take all their treasure to a hidden valley in a last-ditch attempt to appease their sacred spirits and save their civilisation? How many of the diverse characters, including a gang of idiotic magpies, are going to contrive to come along on the adventure? And is one of them a witch – and if so, what does that make Atticus?
Questions, questions, questions – but the pleasure in finding the answers is quite delightful. It strikes me that if a cat was solving his crime in most other juvenile fiction it would be either problems that would affect other felines, or strictly human matters. The balance between the two is done most superbly here, by keeping very tight reins on how anthropomorphised Atticus is, and by making it perfectly clear his inquisitive mind makes his human friends' matters of interest. He is amongst the humans but clearly not one of them – even if he can understand every word of them, they can't fathom what he says back in the fashion of Lassie. The matter of lost treasure will only impact on Atticus if his friends in the home for lost kittens can raise some holiday money, but here he is going fleet-footed into human affairs.
And the writing is fleet-footed too, meaning the richness of this world comes at you directly, powerfully and most pleasurably. Yes, the step here is supreme from the provincial seaside town we once knew, with the magpies in their nest under the pier, the human baddies resigned to a caravan park life, and so on. But there has also been a peculiar type of charm to these books, and something as absurd as the plot here – royal interventions, broadly-portrayed new characters, etc – doesn't fall entirely out of place. I think a few longer, more complex words got through the editing, but there is very little indeed to knock this off the shelf for much-loved books for the regular ten-and-up reader. More or less self-contained, think of this as a firm commendation.
I must thank the publishers for my review copy.
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