Sophie hung on tightly to the leather strap as the omnibus rattled forwards. Another Monday morning and, all about her, London was whirring into life: damp and steamy with last night’s rain and this morning’s smoke. As she stood wedged between a couple of clerks wearing bowler hats and carrying newspapers, she gazed out of the window at the grey street, wondering whether that faint fragrance of spring she’d caught on the wind had been just her imagination. She found herself thinking about the garden of Orchard House: the daffodils that must be blooming there now, the damp earth and the smell of rain in the grass.
‘Piccadilly Circus!’ yelled the conductor as the omnibus clattered to a halt, and Sophie pushed her thoughts away. She straightened her hat, grasped her umbrella in a neatly gloved hand, and slipped between the clerks and past an elderly lady wearing a pince-nez, who said ‘Dear me!’ as if quite scandalised at the sight of a young lady alone, recklessly jumping on and off omnibuses. Sophie paid no attention and hopped down on to the pavement. There was simply no sense in listening. After all, she wasn’t that sort of young lady any more.
Published in June 2015
Cover and interior illustrations by Julia Sarda
336 pages in paperback (read on Kindle via NetGalley)
From the publisher’s website
You are cordially invited to attend the Grand Opening of Sinclair’s department store!
Enter a world of bonbons, hats, perfumes and MYSTERIES around every corner. WONDER at the daring theft of the priceless CLOCKWORK SPARROW! TREMBLE as the most DASTARDLY criminals in London enact their wicked plans! GASP as our bold heroines, Miss Sophie Taylor and Miss Lilian Rose, CRACK CODES, DEVOUR ICED BUNS and vow to bring the villains to justice…
Set in the Edwardian era, The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow happily blends together glamour, adventure and detection. Think of the setting of Mr Selfridge, the frocks of Downton Abbey series one and a good dollop of Enid Blyton.
It’s an immersive read with over 300 pages to go at and lots of historic detail. I loved the period-style advertisements and other documents with charming artwork by Julia Sarda. There are mysteries to solve and friendships to get involved in. As you might expect, not everyone is quite who or what they seem – and it’s fun for the smart reader to puzzle out what’s happening.
The portrayal of the class system and the opulence of an early 20th century department store are well done. Although there are odd tricky bits of historical vocabulary, the prose is easy enough for those who read independently. It could well suit a younger yet fluent reader who likes, say E. Nesbit, as there’s nothing too distressing in it.
The point of view moves from one character to another but as they are quite distinct, it’s not too taxing to follow. Some intriguing questions about Sophie’s background remain unanswered by the end so I was none-too-surprised to find there is a sequel. Those who have enjoyed the daring exploits of this diverse little gang will be pleased to know there is at least a third story planned.
I would recommend it in particular for those who enjoyed The Penelope Tredwell Mysteries by Christopher Edge. Readers of Robin Steven’s Murder Most Unladylike series may well enjoy a dip into a different time period too.
K. M. Lockwood lives by the sea in Sussex - see the pics on Instagram. She fills jars with sea-glass, writes on a very old desk and reads way past her bedtime. Her tiny bed and breakfast is stuffed full of books - and even the breakfasts are named after writers. You'd be welcome to chat stories with @lockwoodwriter on Twitter