An exciting middle-grade mystery with an appealing heroine and an unguessable ending. I’m already counting the months until book two is available.
Twelve-year old Milly longs to be a ballerina just like her mum. However, the biggest performance of her life goes horribly wrong on the same night her mum disappears without a trace. Milly is devasted and only begins to piece her life back together when she receives an invitation to join a very special ballet school. Swan House is special for a very unexpected reason. It isn’t just a school for ballet dancers. It’s a school for spies! And the teachers are investigating a very important mystery – they believe Milly’s mum was abducted and they need Milly to help them find her.
I’ve always loved a good school story, from Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers and Anne Digby’s Trebizon stories to the excitement of Mark Walden’s HIVE series (that’s the ‘Higher Institute of Villainous Education’ to the uninitiated). Combine this with a good mystery, such as those in Hogwarts or Robin Steven’s Deepdean School, and I’m hooked. It’s not surprising, therefore, that I’ve been looking forward to Peril en Pointe since the moment I first heard about the idea of a ballet school for spies.
Milly’s first-person voice hooked me from the start and she had my unwavering support, and sympathy, from the moment on page 2 when she describes her memories of arch enemy, Willow, in Ballet Tots: I still remember the smells of angel cake (her) and wee (me) mingling as we did the hokey-cokey.
A few pages later, Milly is tempted to trip Willow up and I’m not ashamed to say I was wishing she would. Milly, however, resists but things still go horribly wrong – setting off a chain of events that shape what becomes a gripping and exciting plot.
I’m usually very good at solving the mysteries in middle grade stories, possibly because I’ve read so many and spent such a long time studying their structure. In this particular instance, however, I totally failed to put all the clues together. Indeed, it’s testament to debut author Helen Lipscombe’s skill as a writer that the revelation of who was really behind Milly’s mum’s disappearance was entirely unexpected. And yet all the clues where there. I just missed them!
Once you’ve read this book I suspect that you, like me, will be counting the months until we have another Swan House story. In the meantime, if the exciting mystery is what grabbed you, you might want to fill the wait by reading Robin Steven’s Murder Most Unladylike series. I love all of these but my favourite has to be Jolly Foul Play. Alternatively, if it’s Milly’s aspirations to dance that hooked you in, you might want to try No Ballet Shoes in Syria by Catherine Bruton.
Publication date: July 2019
Publisher: Chicken House