The Secret Seven are back! Blyton’s peerless popularity seems set to increase even further as Pamela Butchart revisits the lives of the seven adventurers in this new addition to the classic series.
The Mystery of the Skull pits the Secret Seven club members against some very curious new hotel owners, who have an unusual habit of digging up their garden with huge holes, and seem ill-prepared to run a hotel, serving half frozen fish pie in the restaurant! Naturally, the Secret Seven charge themselves with finding out all of the newcomers’ secrets, and set about invading privacy and meddling where they are not wanted, as much as they possibly can!
Each character has an important part to play in uncovering the mysteries, be it keeping lookout, bravely breaking and entering or even impersonating old Scottish ladies! Pleasingly, the girls in the group take on especially daring roles, and it’s the courageous actions of Pam and Barbara that really drive the story forward. As always, the grown-ups in the story are all villains or else unwitting bystanders who, thankfully, don’t get in the way of the SS and their mission.
Purist fans will be relieved to learn that the update of the series does not mean that the children are suddenly using mobile phones or the internet to solve their mysteries. The nostalgic venues (big hotels, woodlands) remain, as do the young heroes’ innocent yet courageous thirst for adventure. While maintaining the tone and atmosphere of her source material, Butchart has slightly increased the pace of the action, with short chapters ending in cliffhangers. The mysteries and questions come thick and fast, though, at times, questions are answered a little early and cliff hangers are resolved on the very next page – the tension could be maintained a little longer.
The convergence of the enormously popular illustrator (Tony Ross) with the classic success of Blyton is undoubtedly a brilliant choice (Ross will also be illustrating the upcoming reissue of the first Secret Seven books). Ross always brings such life and energy to his pictures, which will reignite the sense of adventure for existing Blyton fans and attract new readers who will be eager to see what David Walliams’ illustrator has up his sleeve for this series.