Dead Man’s Cove was the first book chosen for my monthly book club. I had been wanting to read it for a while because it sounded like a perfect middle grade adventure and mystery in the vein of Enid Blyton, plus the cover is stunning! Dead Man’s Cove is the first story in the Laura Marlin Mysteries series, following 11-year-old Laura as she works on becoming an ace detective, inspired by her favourite fictional detective Matt Walker. Laura is living in Sylvan Meadow’s Children’s Home when she is discovered by her uncle, Calvin Redfern, and taken to live in St Ives, Cornwall, where her detective skills are about to be put to use.
Middle grade mysteries are among my favourite books to read because they’re so much fun and Dead Man’s Cove certainly isn’t short of mysteries to figure out. Why is the cove so dangerous? Is Tariq, the shopkeeper’s quiet son, who he appears to be? Why is the housekeeper, Mrs Webb, so mean? Does her uncle really work in the fisheries? And what does Laura have to do to find her place in St Ives? Dead Man’s Cove was (to my delight!) much more complicated and darker than expected, but it also leaves you nostalgic for a childhood you (likely) never had, full of breakfast by the sea, accompanied by a loyal Siberian Husky named Skye, roaming sand the ‘colour of a Labrador puppy’. It made me miss living by the sea while I was at university, waking up to seagulls every morning.
It’s not just the mystery that is so wonderful, but also the colourful, vivid and distinct characters. You’ll have an opinion on all of them, especially Laura Marlin herself, who is an incredibly passionate, intelligent and brave young girl. Luckily, her uncle Calvin knows she’s responsible and gives Laura the space to explore, although he’s not so sure that she should be rushing to pick her career so quickly… Mrs Crabtree, Laura’s nosy neighbour is hilarious and a brilliant addition to the story, and Mr. Mukhtar, Tariq’s father, is suspicious and untrustworthy. But when you’re just an 11-year-old, it’s difficult to get people to believe you.
Dead Man’s Cove is a delightful, nostalgic mystery that’ll make you remember the time you pretended to be Harriet the Spy, trying to figure out the puzzle in front of you, and in this modern children’s detective story, you’ll join Laura as she tries to find a place in her new home. I’ve already read the World Book Day short story, The Midnight Picnic, and can’t wait to start the second book, Kidnap in the Caribbean. Just wonderful!
‘They came for her at 6.47am. Laura made a note of the time because she’d been waiting for this moment for eleven years, one month and five days and she wanted always to remember it – the hour her life began.’
Published: 5th August 2010
Publisher: Orion Children’s Books