Science meets Spectres in a fast moving and fun middle-grade story where every character, even the most minor, has a crucial role.
Eleven-year old Demelza sees herself as a scientist – an inventor extraordinaire who’s going to win the Nobel prize. It, therefore, comes as a bit of a shock when she discovers she’s inherited a distinctly unscientific skill. Like her parents (who were killed in a car crash) and her grandmother (whom she lives with), Demelza has the power to summon the ghosts of the dead. Suddenly, alongside her inventing and scientific experiments, Demelza becomes an apprentice Spector Detector. And, if this isn’t enough, she soon discovers that she’s being targeted by the mysterious Snatcher who is looking for yet another young Spector Detector to perform the Conjuring of Resurrection (a special spell that will bring a ghost back to life but at the cost of the life of the person doing spell). Demelza is adamant that there is nothing on earth that will persuade her to perform the deadly spell: then her Grandma Maeve and pet dog, Shiver, are kidnapped and she finds herself reconsidering.
Science meets Spectres – this is an unusual combination but it works brilliantly. We meet Demelza as she’s sneaking out of bed to work on her inventions and I was immediately hooked. She’s building a ‘remarkable robotic hand for homework haters’ and it’s truly wonderful. If I’m honest, I really wanted more of these fabulous inventions but the story quickly takes another turn and we’re suddenly learning about the world of the Spector Detectors. This is intriguing in itself but, before we have time to settle too much, the plot kicks up a gear and we’re in a gripping mystery.
The plot is fast moving and impressively constructed. I quickly realised every single character has a key role in the plot and I had great fun trying to work out what it would be (sometimes I was right but not always). For example, at one point we think Demelza is simply protecting her pet mouse, Archimedes, from intruders but he turns out to have a crucial role. Similarly, I had a hunch that sweet-shop owner, Mr Barnabas, was not in the story by accident but my guess about his role turned out to be far from the truth.
By far the best plot points, however, revolve around Demelza’s best friend, Percy Grey, and his family. These are simply inspired. I am not going to say more as I don’t want to spoil your enjoyment of this fabulous story. You’ll just have to read the book to discover for yourself!
I do, however, have to give a quick mention to my two favourite characters in the book – the school bully’s bodyguard, Miranda, who turns out to have hidden depths and Lord Balthazar, the talking skull who comes with Demelza’s Spector Detective kit, who is incredibly entertaining.
If you enjoyed this, you might also like the Beetle Boy trilogy by M G Leonard (Beetle Boy, Beetle Queen, and Battle of the Beetles). Alternatively, if you’d prefer a middle-grade adventure about another young inventor, you might like reading about Maudie Brightstorm and her twin, Arthur in Brightstorm by Vashti Hardy.
Publication Date: February 2020
Publisher: Chicken House
Author’s website: Holly Rivers