Poor Edie King – her parents are both dead and when her tough but fair granny Babka is no longer able to look after her she is sent to live with her truly horrible cousins. The book opens with a description of one of the nastiest pieces of bullying you’re ever likely to read, the unjustness of it all will set young readers quivering.
Edie’s life takes a sudden change for the if not better then different, when her uncle Charles arrives with a strange but tempting proposition. The daughter of a friend of his is at boarding school nearby, and being bullied. This friend has asked Charles to find a child – ‘an urchin’ in his words – they can plant in the school to be a playmate and protector for his daughter. There’s definitely something of the James Bond about Uncle Charles, and maybe Edie too. She accepts the assignment and is soon settling into Knight’s Haddon school and making friends with Anastasia, the girl she’s been appointed to watch. Anastasia is the daughter of a wealthy Russian prince, and the bullying is insidious and sinister, someone seems to be trying to send her mad. As Edie sets about finding out what is going on, she uncovers all sorts of secrets about her own family too.
There’s nothing like a good boarding school story, and this is a great example of the genre. From the descriptions of the building and the dorms (of course), to the portraits of the girls and their friendships, it really hits the spot. Edie is a great heroine, all stiff upper lip and inner turmoil, and headmistress Miss Fotheringay, ‘Fothy’, the woman we’d all like to be, surely! The mystery story provides moments of real suspense and it all builds to a properly satisfying climax. This will be a favourite with readers, and there are more stories to come.