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Lavie Tidhar, illus Mark Beech


Nelle Faulkner is 12 years old and a private detective, working out of her garden shed, in the time of Prohibition; Prohibition of candy, that is. Mayor Thornton has issued a decree that all candy should be banned from this American town, and now there is an underground trade in sweets, chocolate, gum and cakes. When Eddie de Menthe, one of the town's gang leaders, comes to Nelle with a case of a missing teddy bear, she finds herself drawn into the world of contraband, smuggling and dirty deals. With Sweetcakes Ratchet and Waffles MacKenzie competing for trade and some very suspicious cops on the scene, Nelle has her work cut out to get to the bottom of the mystery of the missing teddy, and when Eddie goes missing too, there is work to be done.

Witty and original, this is more than just a mystery as the teddy plays a significant part in the events in the town, past and present. As events move to a satisfying conclusion, layers of story are revealed. The intended readership is unlikely to be aware of the historical allusions to the real Prohibition era but for an adult reader the echoes are clear. Kid gangsters, dirty cops, and stores as fronts for contraband deals give this book a 'Bugsy Malone' feel: although there are a few tense and menacing moments, the book is never truly scary.

Characters are believable and likeable (except the baddies who are appropriately penned!) and Tidhar's prose is flowing and satisfying to read. Beech's popular pen and ink style illustrations pop up every few pages and add humour and keep the storytelling light.

A rewarding and enjoyable read for boys and girls aged 8+.

304 pages / Ages 8+ / Reviewed by Lucy Russell, teacher.

Reviewed by: Lucy Russell