Ahead of Noirwich Crime Writing Festival in September, Apryl Markham-Uden, Senior Library and Information Assistant for the Norfolk Education Library Service, shares her hand-pick of crime fiction suitable for younger readers…
Often when people think of children’s crime and mystery fiction, they immediately come to Enid Blyton; The Famous Five, The Secret Seven, child detectives whose intrigue and investigative skills were fuelled by picnics of tomato sandwiches and lashings of ginger beer. Whilst those stories are still read and loved by many decades after they first appeared, in reality, there are an abundance of other books available for young people with a penchant for solving crime.
Mysterium series, by Julian Sedgwick
Julian Sedgwick’s Mysterium series focuses on the adventures of Danny Woo, who has grown up within the Mysterium Circus, a band of eccentric artists and misfits. Danny finds himself travelling from Hong Kong to Paris, then Berlin, caught up in each city’s criminal underworld while he attempts to solve the mysterious death of his parents. Asia also features prominently in Sedgwick’s more recent books; Ghosts of Shanghai and its follow-up Shadow of the Yangtze are both set in 1920s China and feature a world of spies, gangsters and ghosts who haunt protagonist Ruby Harkner.
Ruby Redfort series, by Lauren Child
Lauren Child is most notable for her Charlie and Lola picture books but her Ruby Redfort series features a wannabe spy detective who, with help from her sidekick Hitch, finds herself constantly in capers, thwarting villains and utilising her bank of special agent gadgets to help them crack their cases.
Murder Most Unladylike Mysteries, by Robin Stevens
Robin Stevens takes influence from the great Agatha Christie for her Murder Most Unladylike novels about two girls, Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong, who establish a detective agency in their all-girls school during the 1930s. Solving murders outside their classroom, in a quiet country village and even on the Orient Express, the stories are a wonderful throwback to classic crime fiction and a great gateway for readers to get stuck into the genre.
Ottoline series, by Chris Riddell
Current Children’s Laureate, Chris Riddell, is widely known for his distinctive illustrations but he’s also authored several books himself, including the Ottoline series in which the titular character solves a variety of mysteries at sea and at school, all with the assistance of Mr Munroe, a strange creature who bears an uncanny resemblance to Cousin It (Google and you’ll see what I mean!).
All the Wrong Questions, by Lemony Snicket
Lemony Snicket’s vast A Series of Unfortunate Events may be what the author (the pseudonym of Daniel Handler) is usually known for but he himself appears in All The Wrong Questions, a four part series which tracks the adventures of 12 year old Snicket who moves to the coastal town of Stain’d-By-The-Sea. The series is a great homage to classic detective fiction and film noir, and the books are peppered with not-so-subtle homages to the genre including characters named Stew Mitchum, Dashiell Qwerty and Ellington Feint.
I could go on…for sport fans, there’s Tom Palmer’s Foul Play where the protagonist Danny Harte solves football crimes, Sally Gardner’s Fairy Detective Agency where the crimes have more of a magical twist and Rohan Gavin’s Knightley & Son series in which Darkus Knightley follows in the footsteps of his father Alan, London’s top private investigator who handled crimes even Scotland Yard wouldn’t touch. Author of the No.1 Ladies Detective Agency series, Alexander McCall Smith, has also penned books for children including a series about his famous private investigator, Precious Ramotswe, who even as a nine year old was using her intuitiveness to solve mysteries.
Norfolk School Library Service will be hosting a creative writing workshop for schools with Dark Satanic Mills author, Julian Sedgwick, on Tuesday 13 September as part of Noirwich Crime Writing Festival. The session is now fully booked. For more information contact: firstname.lastname@example.org