Review also includes:
Harriet Bean and the League of Cheats, 80pp, 978-0747580454
The Cowgirl Aunt of Harriet Bean, 96pp, 978-0747580447
How would you feel if you suddenly discovered that you had five aunts whom you’d never met before, and that not only were they all very much alive, but they also had distinct and larger than life characters? Enter Harriet Bean’s five lost aunts, whose professions include strong person at the circus, teacher, opera singer and twin detectives. Thanks to help from the aunts, but also considerable ingenuity from Harriet herself, all five aunts are found and reunited in the first story in this series. In Harriet Bean and the League of Cheats Harriet accompanies her twin detective aunts Japonica and Thessalonika on a dangerous quest: can they discover who is behind the continued misfortunes of Mr Fetlock’s horses in the races? Some amusing wordplay with some of the characters takes place, which young readers will certainly appreciate. Did I say five aunts? In The Cowgirl Aunt of Harriet Bean Harriet discovers a sixth aunt who owns a cattle ranch in the Wild West. And once again, she and her detective aunts are called in to help out with some horse rustling that has her Aunt Formica worried. Into this mix, throw a rattle snake and some nifty lasso work, not to mention a few other details that will keep Harriet’s fans amused and wanting to read further.
McCall Smith’s storytelling ability is never in doubt, and he is able to write in such a way that is not only believable but also makes the reader want to carry on turning pages. All three books lend themselves equally well to being read out aloud to children or to being read on their own. My one gripe is that the front covers might not be sufficiently alluring – some of the humorous detail that Bilbey gives inside the books is missing on the jackets. But this is only a minor gripe in an otherwise greatly amusing mini-series.