The Highland Falcon Thief

The Highland Falcon Thief was written by M.G. Leonard and Sam Sedgman and first published in 2020. It is a mystery story aimed at middle grade readers, focusing on two youths who set out to capture a jewel thief. The novel forms the first part of the Adventures on Trains series and its sequel, Kidnap on the California Comet, is due for release later this year.

Harrison “Hal” Beck isn’t overly happy to stay with his Uncle Nathaniel, a famous travel writer. He wants to be there for his mother while she gives birth and has no interest in spending four days cooped up on a train. However, the train in question is the legendary Highland Falcon and Hal quickly learns that there is nothing quite like it. He will be travelling all around the country as part of a very special group of guests, celebrating the train’s final journey.

While Hal’s first impressions of the train are not great, he gains a newfound appreciation as he befriends Marlene “Lenny” Singh, a stowaway and daughter of the train driver. The journey grows more interesting still as a couple of guests report that their jewels have gone missing. Industrialist Steven Pickle is quick to blame Hal, and the boy starts to investigate to clear his name. Hal and Lenny suspect that it may be a famous thief who has recently made the papers, and that they could have their sights set on a huge diamond that belongs to a princess who will be boarding at Balmoral.

Using Hal’s keen observations and Lenny’s knowledge of the train, the two team up to try and uncover which of the guests is the culprit and learn that everyone is hiding secrets. When Lenny is captured and accused of the crime, Hal enters a race against time to prove her innocence before the train arrives back in London and the thief can make their getaway.

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One of Us Is Next

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for One of Us Is Lying. You can read my review of this novel [here].

Tonight’s review actually serves two purposes. Firstly, this post is the 550th review on this site. Yay for us and thank-you, as always, for your continuing support. This post is also to raise awareness for World Book Night, which is tomorrow. More information on that shortly…

One of Us Is Next was written by Karen M. McManus and first published in 2020. It is a mystery story which focuses on a group of students who are forcibly engaged in a deadly game of Truth or Dare. The novel is a direct sequel to One of Us Is Lying (2017), so I would strongly recommend reading the novels in sequence to fully appreciate what is going on.

A year has passed since Simon’s death, yet the students of Bayview High have never forgotten the horrible game he played. Copycat sites have popped up every now and then, but the school’s strict anti-cyber bullying policy has quickly had them shut down. At last, the “Bayview Four” – Bronwyn, Addy, Cooper and Nate – have been allowed to get on with their lives and graduate. However, it soon becomes clear that the game is not over for those that they have left behind.

It starts as a harmless text from an unknown sender, targeting every student in Maeve’s year. The messenger says that he will be contacting one student with a Truth or Dare. If they forfeit, one of their secrets will be sent directly to everyone they know. No one truly believes it until the sender reveals Phoebe’s dark shame to everyone – a secret that no one else should have been able to find out.

The students quickly become hooked on the game, with everyone keen to choose “Dare” to avoid their secrets being leaked. However, when one of the dares goes horribly wrong and a student is killed, Maeve and her friends realise that the game hides some sinister purpose. Was the death planned and, if so, how does the mastermind seem to know everything about them?

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I Know You Remember

I Know You Remember was written by Jennifer Donaldson and first published in 2019. It is a mystery novel which focuses on a teenage girl’s search for her missing best friend. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to read any of the author’s earlier work to fully appreciate it.

Following the death of her mother, Ruthie Hayden is forced to move to Alaska to live with her estranged father and his new family. Although she is not happy about this, the one thing that she is looking forward to is seeing her childhood best friend, Zahra Gaines, again. Although Zahra and Ruthie have grown apart over the years, Ruthie has nothing but fond memories of their childhood and the fantasy stories that they wrote together.

However, Ruthie arrives in Anchorage to learn something terrible. Zahra had a fight with her boyfriend and stormed out of a party three days previously, and no one has seen her since. As Ruthie tries to find out the truth about what happened that night from the people who were there, she starts to learn disquieting things about Zahra. Her friend is no longer the creative artist that she once was, instead having become an athletic, party girl with no interest in books.

Yet Ruthie’s investigation uncovers uncomfortable truths about her friend and it’s not long before she realises that Zahra hides a dark secret. Something has happened to her over the time that Ruthie has been gone, and that thing changed her forever. As Ruthie delves deeply into her best friend’s past, she finds that nothing is quite as it seems and learns that some truths are better left buried…

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D.O.G.S

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for S.T.A.G.S. You can read my review of this novel [here].

D.O.G.S was written by M.A. Bennett and was first published in 2019. It is a young adult mystery novel, focusing on a teenage girl and her increasing involvement with a sinister secret society. The novel forms part of the second part of the S.T.A.G.S series, continuing shortly after S.T.A.G.S (2017) left off. Because of this, I would strongly recommend reading the novels in sequence to have any idea of what’s going on.

Greer MacDonald is trying her best to focus on her A Levels, but can’t quite get over the terrible things that happened at Longcross Hall. Although Henry was a monster she is still haunted by his death, and feels partially responsible for it. As a result, she has grown distracted from her studies. She can’t even think of a play to direct as part of her drama assessment.

Everything changes when a strange manuscript is posted under her bedroom door. The document is supposedly the first act of a lost play by Ben Jonson – The Isle of Dogs. This play carries with it a certain level of notoriety. After its first performance, a number of those involved with it were arrested and all copies were reportedly destroyed.

As Greer’s mysterious benefactor delivers more of the acts, she slowly begins to learn why the play was banned. However, it’s not long before she discovers that she will have to work for the play’s final pages. When she learns that the last act is hidden somewhere at Longcross Hall, she begins to suspect that someone close to her has ulterior motives. Could the Order of the Stag be trying to lure her into some kind of trap?

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13 Minutes

13 Minutes was written by Sarah Pinborough and first published in 2016. It is a mystery novel that focuses on two teenagers investigating the events that lead up to a tragic accident. The novel is a stand-alone story, so you don’t have to have read any of the author’s other work to fully appreciate it.

Natasha was dead for thirteen minutes when a passing dogwalker pulled her out of the river. Although she was quickly revived, her memories of the previous day were muddled and she could not recall why she had left her home and wandered into the woods at night. The only clue was a text message telling her to meet someone, yet Tasha has no idea who sent this message or where they expected her to meet them.

Becca was once Tasha’s best friend but over the last few years, the two of them grew apart. While Tasha was the most popular girl in school, Becca had embraced her individuality and moved away from the spotlight. However, as Tasha notices that her closest friends are acting strangely, she rekindles her old friendship to be able to talk to someone that she trusts.

The two girls slowly begin to grow suspicious that Tasha’s inner circle had something to do with her accident. As they investigate, it becomes clear that all of the girls have secrets that they do not want to come to light – ones that they may take extreme measures to protect. However, as Becca starts to put the pieces together, she soon comes to discover that the truth of what happened on that night is more disturbing than she could ever have imagined…

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The Hanging Girl

The Hanging Girl was written by Eileen Cook and first published in 2017. It is a mystery novel which follows a teenage girl who becomes entangled in the disappearance of one of her schoolmates. The story stands alone, so you don’t have to have read any of the author’s other work to fully appreciate it.

Skye Thorn is in trouble. Her friend Drew has been busy planning a future which involves the two girls moving to New York to study together. Skye knows that she could never hope to afford the rent, but has been too embarrassed to bring this to Drew’s attention. Trouble is, now graduation day is looming closer and Skye knows that she has left it far too long to tell the truth.

Her desperation pushes her to take drastic measures to raise the money. Skye has always had a talent for reading people, playing this to great advantage while doing tarot readings for her schoolmates. However, she takes this a step further when she becomes involved in shady Pluto and his kidnapping scheme. The plan is simple. Pluto kidnaps Skye’s classmate, Paige, and sends the ransom demand to her wealthy father. Skye uses her insider information to fake psychic visions that lead the police to where Paige is being kept. Unfortunately, things go horribly wrong.

Skye’s mother is quick to cash in on the tragedy, claiming that she has also had psychic visions that cause the police to start to doubt the validity Skye’s. As Skye struggles to retain control of the situation, things take a sudden dark turn and she realises that all of the blame for the kidnapping could be easily pinned on her. Skye needs to gain the upper hand and quickly. The true perpetrators are dangerous, and Skye must use all of her cunning if she is to keep her neck out of the noose…

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One Of Us Is Lying

One Of Us Is Lying was written by Karen M McManus and first published in 2017. It is a mystery novel set in an American high school, where four students find themselves suspected of murdering one of their classmates. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to read any of McManus’s other work to fully appreciate it.

Bronwyn is a diligent student with high hopes of getting into Yale. Cooper is a brilliant pitcher who is already been scouted for several baseball scholarships. Addison is the beautiful homecoming queen with a perfect boyfriend. Nate is a known drug dealer, one slip-up away from being sent to juvie. Simon is the notorious editor of the school’s gossip app.

All five students find themselves in detention when banned mobile phones are planted in their bags before a spot check. While the students believe themselves to be victims of a practical joke, things take a sinister turn as Simon suddenly goes into anaphylactic shock and dies in the room. While it looks to be a tragic accident, it turns out that Simon’s water had been spiked with peanut oil – something that he was deathly allergic to.

As no one else could have entered the room, it seems clear that one of the four others must have poisoned him. Suspicion grows as it is discovered that Simon had dirt on each of them and was planning on making it public. As Simon is renowned for always being right, it’s clear that none of the suspects are as clean as they first seemed. Every one of them hides a secret, yet would any of them be prepared to kill to protect it?

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The One Memory of Flora Banks

The One Memory of Flora Banks was written by Emily Barr and first published in 2017. It is a contemporary novel which focuses on a girl with amnesia on a quest to find her lost love. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to have read any of the author’s earlier work to fully appreciate it.

When Flora was ten years old, an operation to remove a brain tumour left her without the ability to make memories. She remembers everything up to this but anything that she has learned since leaves her mind within a few hours. Despite now being seventeen, she will never lead an ordinary live. It’s not even safe for her to leave her home town. That is, until she kisses a boy on the beach.

Flora wakes up the next morning and is shocked to find that she remembers this vividly. She quickly convinces herself that the boy – Drake – has some sort of special ability that will restore her memory. Trouble is, Drake is leaving to study at the North Pole and so she has no chance of ever seeing him again.

However, that’s before her parents are forced to rush to the bedside of her sick brother, leaving her in the care of her friend Paige. This is Flora’s chance. With her parents far away, no one will stop her from just getting on a plane and going after Drake. However, nothing is quite what it seems. Flora will need all of her bravery if she’s ever to discover who she truly is, and survive her adventure to the Land of the Midnight Sun…

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Point Blanc

Point Blanc

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for Stormbreaker. You can read my review of this novel [here].

Point Blanc was written by Anthony Horowitz and first published in 2001. It’s the second book in the massively popular Alex Rider series, preceded by Stormbreaker (2000) and followed by Skeleton Key (2002), Eagle Strike (2004), Scorpia (2004), Ark Angel (2005), Snakehead (2007), Crocodile Tears (2009), Scorpia Rising (2011) and Russian Roulette (2013). The series follows Alex Rider, a fourteen year old boy who is recruited by the MI6 to undertake missions that would be impossible for adult operatives.

Following the defeat of Herod Sayle, Alex wanted nothing more than to return to his normal life. However, Blunt has other ideas. Two billionaires have died in mysterious accidents and the only link between them is that their children attended the same school. Point Blanc is an elite academy hidden deep in the French Alps that claims to be able to reform even the most troubled of teenager. The MI6 fear that this might be the front for something more sinister.

Alex assumes the identity of Alex Friend – the delinquent son of a wealthy supermarket tycoon – and enrols at the academy. Once there, he’s surprised to find just how strange the school is. It’s run by two mysterious people – the creepy Professor Grief and his weightlifting assistant Mrs Stellenbosch – and all the boys exhibit the same weird body language. Only one boy – James Sprintz – seems to have the same concerns as Alex and is determined to escape but this seems impossible – Point Blanc is at the top of a dangerous mountain and Professor Grief has confiscated every set of skis.

As James starts to behave more like the other boys, Alex realises that the MI6 were right to suspect that something is wrong. He’s tempted to abort the mission and get himself to safety but he knows that he can’t abandon the other boys. He needs to find evidence of what Grief is up to before it’s too late and he becomes like all the rest…

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Desire in Frost

Desire in Frost

This review is brought to you as part of the Virtual Book Tour for Desire in Frost, hosted by YA Bound Book Tours. Please note that this review may contain spoilers for its prequel, Fire in Frost. You can read my review of this novel [here].

Desire in Frost was written by Alicia Rades and first published in 2016. It is the second part of the Crystal Frost series and follows the continuing adventures of the title character as she learns to control her psychic gift. The novel follows on directly from Fire in Frost (2015) and so the series really needs to be read in sequence to be fully appreciated.

Although Crystal was initially optimistic that she could use her powers to find Hope, she’s starting to be doubt herself. Nights have passed and she’s haunted by the same dream, witnessing the little girl’s abduction but unable to see the face of the kidnapper. Although she’s confident that the girl is alive, the trail is growing ever colder and soon even the police begin to give up on finding Hope alive.

Yet it’s Thanksgiving and her Mum and Teddy have arranged a trip to Florida to visit Teddy’s parents. Crystal hopes that the break will be just the thing to help her focus and gain a greater understanding of her abilities. Unfortunately, Teddy also invites along his nephew Robin – a secretive teen who never has a kind word to say to anyone – and so the holiday soon proves to be less peaceful than Crystal hoped.

However, not all seems to be lost. The further south they drive; the stronger Crystal’s visions become. Slowly, the pieces begin to fall into place and Crystal begins to understand exactly why Hope was taken. With Teddy still uncertain about her gifts, Crystal turns to Robin to help her rescue the little girl. Yet as she begins to develop feelings for her soon-to-be cousin, things become even more complicated. Will she be able to find love and rescue Hope while still keeping her psychic powers a secret?

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