The trouble with being a detective, mused Laura, as she and Paula strolled through the pretty historic village of Blackwood, was that the most innocent of settings took on a sinister aspect.
Where a normal person might visit an idyllic English wood in springtime and be enchanted by a carpet of bluebells, Matt Walker only wondered where the bodies were buried.
Ordinary tourists strolled through Provençal or Tuscan villages, delighting in the sun-drenched piazzas, fields of lavender and shop windows stuffed with cheeses and pastries. Sherlock Holmes, Poirot and Miss Marple knew these places to be hotbeds of intrigue. The jolly woman at the boulangerie might have a sideline selling fake antiques for exorbitant prices. The handsome young Italian posing for a selfie beside his scooter might be the middleman for a gang of ivory smugglers. Calven Redfern had warned Laura that these detective-coloured spectacles – ‘the very opposite of rose-tinted’ – once on, were impossible to take off.
(The Secret of Supernatural Creek by Lauren St John. P55.)
With leader of the Safe A gang behind bars, Laura Marlin should relax and enjoy the school trip of a life time. That’s what Tariq says, but Laura can’t help looking at the world with her detective eyes. After six months evading the criminal gang, it is difficult to relax.
Strange things are happening around Katherine Gorge. A tourist claims to have been attacked by a luminescent crocodile, and a medical plane crashes in an attempt to help him. The pilot claims to have seen a UFO.
Meanwhile, the leader of the Straight As escapes from prison and Laura Marlin sees a joker on the bathroom mirror – the ‘calling card’ the Straight As leave as a warning. Laura’s also growing concerned about her husky, Skye. Why hasn’t Uncle Calvin mentioned him? Why does housekeeper Rowena send a picture of Skye which is six weeks old? Could these things be connected, or is Tariq right? Has Laura become paranoid?
Laura Marlin is like Whippy ice-cream on the beach. It isn’t summer without one. I’ve loved Laura Marlin since book one came out, and am a huge fan of Lauren St John’s horsey novels.
I wish these books had been around when I was a kid. I was animal rights obsessed, but with the internet still being a newish thing, it was easy to type the term into a search engine and fall down the digital rabbit hole. Animal rights is one of those issues where lots of people start with their heart in the right place, but get led astray in how to handle it. Back in the early noughties, there weren’t [m]any child friendly places to learn about animal welfare or environmental issues. Most of Lauren St John’s books are based around a specific issue. There’s just enough ‘issue’ to make readers think, but the focus is on a pacy mystery adventure.
The Secret of Supernatural Creek is the fifth book in series. Laura and Tariq have escaped The Striaght A Gang four or five times, rescued each other, rescued themselves and spent their lives looking over their shoulders. The interesting thing about The Secret of Supernatural Creek is it explores how Laura and Tariq are coping with the pressures of being a fictional detective, (we might call it Famous Five syndrome.) Tariq, who spent eleven years as a slave, wants a chance to be normal. He’s lived with fear for long enough, and wishes Laura would relax. Laura sees everything with detective vision. She’s always on the lookout for something which might be suspicious. It was interesting to see their different viewpoints causing conflict, especially to see how Tariq felt about Laura treating everything as an adventure. A quiet life is the adventure Tariq has never experienced, and it made me think about how down time is invaluable.
The school trip setting brings in a larger crowd of children than usual, more like The White Giraffe. The main introduction is Elspeth, another budding detective, who takes an interest in conspiracy theories. This contrasts with Laura’s cool logic, learnt from her uncle, and her fictional hero Matt Walker. I’ve always loved how Laura’s personality informs how she solves her mysteries – less lucky coincidence, more finding the common thread. At first competitive with Elspeth, Laura learns that people with different personalities can teach us things we overlook.
The mystery has a great solution, and I love how the first chapter catches our interest. Lauren St John is great at simultaneously dropping clues and leading the reader astray. Apologies Tariq – I’ll be back for book 7, and I’ll still be reading at book 17.