Monday 10 November 2014

The Sign of the Black Dagger by Joan Lingard

Lucy didn’t like the look of the man the moment she opened the door. The light in the alley was dim and she couldn’t see his face properly but the set of his shoulders and the angle of his head in some way intimidated her. She took a step back.
‘I’m looking for Ranald Cunningham.’
He had a smooth voice but she didn’t like it either.
‘He’s not in,’ she said.
‘When will he be back?
‘I don’t know.’
Originally published in 2005, this edition July 2014
208 pages in paperback – with a black and white map
Cover designed by Astrid Jaekel, winner of the inaugural Kelpies Design & Illustration Prize
Summary from publisher’s own website
One day, Will and Lucy's dad just ... vanishes. They have no idea why he's disappeared until a creepy stranger reveals their dad was keeping a BIG secret. Then there's the second clue: an old diary they find hidden in the walls of their Royal Mile house, with a sinister black dagger on it. Will and Lucy must solve a mystery that's over two hundred years old if they want to find their dad and bring him home. But can they find the answers in time to rescue him?  Award-winning author Joan Lingard weaves a fast-paced mystery set in and around Edinburgh's Royal Mile. The story alternates between Will and Lucy, searching for their dad in the present day, and their ancestors William and Louisa, struggling to save their own father while following the sign of the black dagger and uncovering a plot to kill a French aristocrat.
This is a welcome and timely re-issue by Floris in their Kelpies range. In one short book, Joan Lingard manages to cram in two timelines, a mystery, a family drama and convincing history, without it feeling over-stuffed or confusing. All that excitement in just over 40,000 words!
Although very precisely set in Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, it’s fine if you don’t know the area. Firstly the writing conveys the location very clearly and secondly, there’s a Pinterest board to enjoy. You certainly don’t need to be Scottish to enjoy this thriller.
It’s ideal for reasonably confident readers from 8 upwards. There’s peril and danger - but a satisfying ending makes it suitable for relatively young children. Themes of debt, courage and family loyalty don’t change across the decades.  I’m glad this second edition gives a chance for a new audience to enjoy Joan Lingard’s work. Children will experience her skilled blending of pace and emotion without noticing the craft involved. They will just enjoy a really good read.

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