Children's Fiction: "Murder in Midwinter" Fleur Hitchcock
Maya is travelling on a bus in Central London trying to take photos on her phone of the beautifully festive shop windows when a couple step into her viewfinder and start arguing. Through the camera flashes as Maya clicks away trying to get a decent photo for her sister, a glint of something else catches her eyes. The man has a gun. As Maya's flash releases, the man disappears. But not before he's seen her.
Then a dead body appears.
Sharing her eye witness account with the police puts Maya's safety under threat. She is sent away to her Aunt's farm in the Welsh mountains with police protection but Maya is determined to solve the mystery and won't rest until the man she saw is arrested.
Snow falls. They are trapped in the hills. But are they safe?
This is a gripping story, full of drama, mystery and excitement that will capture the imagination of any young sleuth or any young reader that wants to delve into the world of crime fiction for the first time.
Hitchcock has created a great protagonist that will appeal to her readers. Maya is sharp, funny, brave and strong. The story is told in the first person and Maya's narrative is engaging, authentic and enjoyable. Even from the start, we know there is something special about her - her Mallen streak:
"I know it's unusual, but I like it. It makes us special, me and Zahra and Dad. Black hair, white streak. Hereditary. Like skunks, or Cruella de Vil."
The opening of the story introduces to us a girl who is interested in clothes, friends and her family. The exciting event which she witnesses happens immediately on the third page, pulling us straight into the thick of the story and ensuring a dramatic and tense pace which is maintained throughout the whole novel.
I liked that Maya is believed by the police, despite difficulties with evidence and proof. Although she is sent away to her Aunt's farm, it is not upsetting or threatening for the readers and Maya is a girl able to take everything in her stride.
Her cousin Ollie is not impressed with his new house guest. The interchange between the two is very amusing and once again, Maya makes us smile with her quick witted replies and her ability not to be put down or intimidated. For example, Maya is not really equipped for life in the countryside coming from London and finds herself a little unprepared for walking in the mountains or even around the farm:
"Haven't you got anything more sensible?" she asks looking at my low heeled boots.
Ollie lets out a long and exaggerated sigh. "Expect she only wears glass slippers."
"I do that on Tuesdays," I say, "not Saturdays."
The relationship between Ollie and Maya is well handled as they become involved in solving the mystery and various dramatic moments of high adventure!
It is a great thriller for the winter. The setting and atmosphere are perfect in creating tension and suspense. The characters are well drawn and full of spark and the family dynamics are heartwarming.
I would recommend this for any readers aged 8-12 and thing it is a well paced story with a satisfying balance between chills, thrills and humour. It is not scary or frightening but includes enough suspense to engage and excite readers.
My thanks to Nosy Crow publishers for an advanced copy of this book in return for a fair review.
"Murder in Midwinter" by Fleur Hitchcock is published on 6th October 2016.
Born in Cobham, by an airfield, and raised outside Winchester on the banks of the river Itchen, Fleur grew up as the youngest of three children. She spent her smallest years reading Tintin and Batman under her brother's bed and searching for King Alfred's treasure in the river. She grew up a little, went away to school near Farnham, studied English in Wales and for the next twenty years sold Applied Art in the city of Bath. When her youngest child was 7, she embarked on the Writing for Young People MA at Bath Spa and graduated with a distinction. Now she lives just outside Bath with her family working with her husband who is a toymaker, looks after other people's gardens and tries to grow vegetables. She is also the author of Dear Scarlet and Saving Sophia.
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