As a free Kindle download I must admit I didn’t expect much from this book. What a surprise it gave me, from the opening paragraphs I was hooked and it just got better.
An opening scene I’m sure we are all familiar with from our childhood, the all important ball has gone into the scary old woman’s garden. What to do? As Billy, Yvonne and Kick make their action plan to get the ball back I was flooded with memories from when I was little.
I can still vividly remember the fear we had for the “witch” who lived down the road, the screams and terror we experienced when she ventured out of her house, convinced she was coming after us. As I sit writing this and remembering I can’t help but smile about how youthful imaginations can spiral out of control. I also have a sense of contrition, how hard we must have made the life of a lonely isolated old lady. You don’t realise when you’re 5 how hurtful a label of witch could be.
But back to the book. With the opening gambit of Billy finding Old Lady Star dead in her home a thoughtful and detailed plot unravels. With her death comes the realisation that she wasn’t a scary lady, just an old lady living on her own. Rather than waiting till he’s older to feel remorse for thinking her scary and weird Billy Perks sets out to make things right for Annabel Loveday. The role of 11 year old Billy as detective is fantastic, the simple and logically way he works through the mystery is cleverly written. There is nothing outlandish in the way he finds clues and evidence, this is detective work 101 – take everything as you see it, question everything, leave no stone unturned and what better way to do that than through the eyes of an inquisitive young boy.
The story is based in Sheffield and Sellars creates a wonderful nostalgic setting. It is easy to imagine the streets the characters are walking and picture the small community where most people know something of everyone’s business. A world where the greengrocer has a cart and pony, police boxes are on the corners of streets and if you get up to mischief you can be sure as hell that someone is going to tell your parents and you’ll be punished for it.
Although the focus is very much on the character of Billy Perks, time has gone into each and every other member of the community. From the helpful Dr Hadfield, Marlene the Co-op’s store cashier and older sister to Billy’s partner in the investigation Yvonne to the mysterious tramp. You feel you know each of them and that although not contained in the book they have a past, a future, a life outside of the Tuppenny Hat Detective’s world.
As you can tell I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to older children and adults alike. I had my suspicions about who dunnit but never would have got the MOM or is it OMM or even MMO!