March 18, 2017
Paperback, Scholastic, £6.99, out now
When a visiting toddler from next door goes missing, 12 year old Matthew tries to solve the case. He has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and spends a lot of time looking out of his window as it’s hard for him to leave his room… but can he start to overcome his illness and find out what has happened?
This is a convincing and engrossing mystery story which I’d recommend for older readers (if the reader is OK with a missing child storyline, I reckon they should be OK with the book). Excellent YA mysteries like Gene Kemp’s Juniper and Rosa Guy’s The Disappearance made me a mystery fan for life, and I think this book will do the same for readers now (another Juniper fan reviews it here – http://awfullybigreviews.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/juniper-by-gene-kemp-reviewed-by-ellen.html). It’s a little slow to start but worth sticking with.
Goldfish Boy is also a kind and creative treatment of OCD, including how treatment works, and has received positive reviews from some people with OCD (see http://www.abeautifulchaos.co.uk/2016/12/the-goldfish-boy-mental-health-book.html). Thompson thanks OCD-UK for their help and the quality of her research and empathy show, particularly in her illustration of how OCD can affect families and the painful and distressing nature of the illness (http://www.ocduk.org/ocd). It has triggered comparisons with Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, and may find some readers in common. I can definitely recommend it anyone, adult or child, in search of an intriguing quick read.
Review by Bethan
August 20, 2016
Hardback, Mantle, £12.99, out now
For his second crime mystery novel, Celestin takes us to Jazz age Chicago. Louis Armstrong is transforming the cornet solo, and Al Capone largely owns the city, which is corrupt at every level. The novel opens with a gangster funeral almost Roman in scope, where the crowds are showered with blue petals from airplanes.
Three sets of unconventional detectives have cases that converge. Dante Sanfilippo is a New York booze runner returning to Chicago from exile in New York at the request of Capone, who wants internal gang troubles investigated. Michael Talbot and Ida Davis, agents at the Pinkertons private detective agency, are looking for a missing heiress. Jacob, a police photographer, is investigating a gruesome alley death, on his own time.
And so we are introduced to the several different worlds of the city. The diversity of the characters, in terms of race and class, gives us access to these. There is complacent old money, garish new money, smoky jazz clubs, dangerous meat yards, and lakeside views.
Ida and Michael will be familiar to readers of The Axeman’s Jazz (https://theriversideway.wordpress.com/2015/06/06/the-axemans-jazz-ray-celestin/). Those who loved the vivid portrayal of 1919 New Orleans in that novel will be equally pleased with the 1928 Chicago of Dead Man’s Blues. You don’t have to have read the first one to read this – it can stand alone – but this is the second in a planned quartet, each set in a different city, so it is worth reading in order. Luckily we have both in stock!
Review by Bethan
October 20, 2015
Arcadia Books, £8.99, paperback out now
“Still half asleep, Chief Inspector Frank Stave reached an arm out across the bed towards his wife, then remembered that she had burned to death in a firestorm three and a half years ago. He balled his hand into a fist, hurled back the blanket and let the ice-cold air banish the last shades of his nightmare”.
So opens The Murderer in Ruins, a gripping historical crime novel set in Hamburg in 1947. The city is experiencing the coldest winter anyone can remember, and refugees and displaced residents are living in the ruins. Hamburg is occupied by the British after being destroyed in the conflict, and it appears that a serial killer is leaving unidentifiable naked bodies in the frozen ruins. Stave has his own problems – his young soldier son is missing, and he is a frequent visitor to the Red Cross reunification office, without success.
The description of the barely-functioning city is completely convincing, and the mystery is satisfyingly gripping and surprising. The lingering poisons of the Third Reich and the war are shown to touch relationships and power structures in post war life. Translated four years after its German publication, and released here by a small press with the support of the Goethe Institute, it is intended to be the first part of a trilogy. I hope Arcadia Press crack on and publish the next two, as I can’t wait to read more from this author.
Review by Bethan