Author: Lauren St John
Age Rating: 8+
Star Rating: 4/5
There really does appear to be some exciting traditional ingredients of a good, compelling children’s Mystery story, in this book, by glancing at the front cover, doesn’t there? ‘Dead Man’s Cove’ – there’s something truly chilling about that title, and the cover depicts an eerie scene featuring stormy seas, a moonlit sky, and introduces us the Laura Marlin, the main character of this story. I was initially grabbed by the slogan from ‘The Times’: Dead Man’s Cove will delight fans of Enid Blyton. This immediately raised my expectations of this story, which was a bit of a mistake, because for me, Enid Blyton is the Queen of children’s adventure-stories, and – well, I was a bit disappointed… Personally, I would compare this story more to Helen Moss’s Adventure Island books (one of which I reviewed a while ago: here).
Anyway Laura Marlin has lived in an Orphanage for as long as she can remember, living her life through books. The author describes that Laura uses them as windows, which I thought was a very interesting way to describe books. Surprisingly accurate too, because when we read books, we are looking into another way of life. Anyway, when Laura’s Uncle Calvin gets in touch and offers to adopt her, a chance to live an exciting life is handed to her, and she plunges in to an adventure evolving around her new home on the Cornish Coast – St Ives.
The story is quite slow moving, at first. The first seven chapters focus on Laura’s arrival, and her settling in, etc. This was when my expectations plummeted, and I became rather bored of drooling over these idyllic surroundings! We also hear about Laura’s friendship with a local Asian boy called Tariq and his mysterious family. Laura is thrilled with her new home: having been restrained by rules all her life – it comes as a big change and surprise to her, when she is told there is only one rule here: not to go near Dead Man’s Cove.
Anyway, Chapter 7 is when things begin to get mysterious. Inspired by a homework project, Laura revives her everlasting desire to be a detective and tells her Uncle about it, however, he becomes strangely negative and forbidding about the subject which sparks suspicions in Laura’s imaginative mind. And then Laura becomes yet more curious when she sees her Uncle heading off to Dead Man’s cove one night, and the mystery begins to unfold.
The mystery surrounding Tariq and his family deepens when Laura discovers that Tariq was adopted, and when she finds that he doesn’t want to see her any more, she is distraught. Tariq seems to have totally transformed into a different person, who wears designer clothes, and has a brand new attitude. What is going in at St Ives, and can Laura solve the mystery as professionally as some of the detectives in her stories?
The illustrator of this book is David Dene, and he does a fantastic job of bringing the book alive with his eerie style and effective shading: