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Saturday, 7 May 2011

Review: Paradise Barn

Author: Victor Watson

Release date: 1st September 2009
Genre: Murder Mystery
Target audience: 10+
UK Publisher: Catnip Publishing

Summary from the publisher’s website:

September 1940. War rages across Europe, and thousands of people, men, women and children, have lost their lives. Despite the air fights overhead life in the quiet village of Great Deeping in the Fens goes on much as usual, until an unthinkable event: a murder. Molly, Annie and Adam, an evacuee from London, are determined to solve the mystery of the Paradise Barn. But it’s one thing hunting for clues, another to track down a murderer. With the war bringing so many strangers to the village, who can they really trust?


Paradise Barn is a charming murder mystery set in Britain during the Second World War.

Molly and Abigail live in the rural town of Great Deeping. Their fathers are absent – they are away doing their bit for the war effort – the two girls have been best friends for as long as they can remember. At the beginning of the novel Molly and Abigail discuss the disturbing fact that there has been a murder. Molly in particular cannot understand how someone could take a life when there is already so much loss happening around them because of the war. The girls set out to solve the crime and restore harmony to their lives.

There is one more event that changes life for the girls and that is the arrival of an evacuee from London. Adam Swales arrives on the train with his sketchbook stays with Molly in her mother’s guest house. The three children set out to discover the identity of the murderer and through the course of doing so develop a great friendship.

The style of writing in this novel is very accessible and the dialogue is charmingly old-fashioned. I think it has a universal appeal. Boys will enjoy the military references and the back drop of the war. Girls will enjoy the friendship between Abigail and Molly and the difficulties they face adding an extra person into their lives.

Paradise Barn has a rather unusual viewpoint. I felt most of the time that Molly was the main character but occasionally the author slipped away to tell us what Adam, Abigail and sometimes even what the occasional adult might be thinking. Molly was a sweet and thoughtful girl. Abigail was rather more confident and opinionated. Adam was very decisive. He was a boy of action and courage.

There really aren’t enough modern mysteries for children. It is a genre that often gets neglected but hopefully things are starting to change. Certainly my pupils tell me they want to read mysteries. Paradise Barn is a wonderful introduction to the genre. It is a “whodunit?” but it is also so much more. It is about the struggles of friendship, the hideous results of war and the realisation that evil isn’t always as clear cut as you might think it is. I really enjoyed this book!

Thanks for Catnip for sending the book for review.
Read for the British Books Challenge 2011


The Book Bug said...

Well, sounds like a fun read. Kind of nostalgic. Except from, kind of ... not. The cover is nice, either way.

Anyhow, fun review!

kirsty at the overflowing library said...

i can't wait to get into this one