Page-turning, contemporary mystery stories starring a group of refreshingly normal kids, Elen Caldecott’s Marsh Road Mysteries have an ever growing band of fans and are real favourites with Books for Keeps.
There are five members of the Marsh Road gang, three girls and two boys, and the set-up is certainly reminiscent of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five: in each book the kids discover something unusual going on and by sleuthing and their detection skills work out what dastardly adults are up to, bringing in their friendly local bobby at the very end to take the villains off to face the music. This story has something of a supernatural element as the children’s friend, an antique shop owner, receives a strange Egyptian cat mummy that seems to bring a curse with it. There are adventures all around, the books seem to tell children, you just need to keep an eye out for them, and even when the kids are facing real danger, there’s a sense of playfulness and fun that keeps the books light and reassuring reading. At the same time, however, Caldecott always touches on some of the issues children face today and in Cats and Curses, her character Andrew is particularly keen to solve the mystery because of the effect it is having on his mum, gradually recovering from the shock of being involved in a fire and reliant on him for daily care. There’s a particularly lovely scene in which he cheers her up by giving her a special hair-do – impossible to imagine Dick or Julian ever doing anything like that!