Updale paints a picture of a small town still recovering from the effects of World War I, just before the recession hits in 1929. Johnny hatches a plan to make some much-needed cash by advertising various non-existent ‘miracle cures’ in the local paper. The murder of a retired GP, for whom his widowed mother cleans, leads to her being arrested. The whole town turns against her. Johnny, desperate to clear her name, becomes enmeshed in an improbable John Buchanesque plot to profit from the newly developed vaccines against TB, making a new friend along the way.
This is an enjoyably escapist, rather old-fashioned story, mixing realism in its portraying of the hardships of inter-War life with the ever-green delights of children solving a mystery and bringing the right person to justice. I wasn’t always convinced by its historical accuracy – the value of money, half term holidays – but details of that sort don’t get in the way of the story.