The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow.
A very special book.
OK, first things first – I loved this book. Everything about it is special: the gold highlights on it’s cover, the lyrical writing style, not forgetting the unique story itself. The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow was published in 2015 but it has a wonderfully old-fashioned feel. I have already ordered, The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth, book two in the series and book three, The Mystery of the Painted Dragon, is due next month. Next month! Yippee.
Right, now I’ve got that out of the way. Let’s get down to business.
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…
I actually think this doesn’t do justice to the book. It makes it seem a little silly and shallow, which isn’t the story at all. Whilst I can see they were trying to set up the feel of a by-gone era, for me, it doesn’t draw the reader into the ‘mystery’ like it should.
All the characters in the book are well-written. Although the story centres on Sophie Taylor, we actually see the story through four points of view.
Sophie Taylor: Sophie’s father has recently died leaving her an orphan with no means of support. As Sophie is fourteen years old, she is too old for an orphanage. She’s lucky to land herself a job in the hat department of Sinclair’s, the newest, most luxurious department store in London.
Even though Sophie was brought up as a typical ‘young lady’, she is clever, brave, kind and resourceful. In short; a great heroine.
Billy Parker: Billy is the young porter at Sinclair’s. He is more likely to be found reading his story paper than working. Will all the tips he learned in those mystery stories help solve the case?
And finally we have Joe. On the run from the infamous Baron’s gang, living on the streets, but with a good heart. These four characters work together to solve the clues of who stole the Clockwork Sparrow? And why?
No spoilers here but I will say that the stakes for the robbery turned out to be much higher than just the robbery of a jewelled antique. Woodfine scatters the clues cleverly throughout the story until the reader doesn’t know who to trust and the events happen at an ever-increasing pace. The book contains some fights, a shooting and Sophie gets abducted but it’s all handled well so I don’t think it will give even the most sensitive reader nightmares.
A glimpse into a world of times gone by.
“The shop girls there were expected to work fourteen hour days and to sleep in communal dormitories above the shop, but were paid only a few meagre shillings a week.”
It’s a far cry from today. When I started reading, I did wonder what modern day children would make of the language; the duffers, and rotters, the shillings and guineas. But anything that can’t really be guessed from the context is skillfully explained. It’s good writing. Did I mention I loved this book?
I’m adding my review of The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow to the British Books Challenge for January. Katherine Woodfine is a Lancashire lass after my own heart. I’ll definitely be reading more of her work.