Author: Lena Jones
Publisher: HarperCollins Children’s Books
Publication Date: 28th June 2018
About the book:
Meet thirteen-year-old Agatha Oddly – a bold, determined heroine, and the star of a stylish new detective series.
Agatha Oddlow has been a detective for as long as she can remember – she’s just been waiting for her first big case. And nothing gets bigger than saving the City of London from some strange goings-on.
With a scholarship to the prestigious St Regis School, a cottage in the middle of Hyde Park, a room full of beloved sleuthing novels, and a secret key that gives her access to a whole hidden side of London, Agatha is perfectly poised to solve the mystery of what’s going on. But just who can she trust when no one is quite who they seem…
What I Thought:
Something is happening in London, the drinking water has been contaminated and after witnessing a woman injured in a hit and run Agatha is determined to investigate! Secret Societies, mysterious tunnels and threats follow!
At the beginning of the year I said I wanted to read more Middle Grade fiction in 2019 so I could make more recommendations to my goddaughter rather than blindly picking one up and hoping for the best. Agatha Oddly and the Secret Key is my first foray into Middle Grade this year and what a fantastic start it is!
The Secret Key is the first in the Agatha Oddly series, the second is already published with a third due out towards the end of the year. Sometimes the first book in a series can suffer from a bit of a slow start as the characters are introduced but I found The Secret Key got the balance just right, there are two relatively short chapters that introduce Agatha and then you’re thrown straight into the action and the adventure barely stops until you reach the conclusion. Obviously I don’t want to give away spoilers but for me it reached a satisfying conclusion, but there were still a couple of outstanding questions, I’m hoping they’ll pop up in a future book but if they don’t I’m still content!
The title character is Agatha Oddlow, a thirteen year old girl with a brunette bob, a red beret and a penchant for investigating, a trait she inherited from her mother who passed away earlier in her childhood. Agatha lives with her father in the Gatekeeper’s Lodge in Hyde Park – a perk of him being the head gardener! Agatha is an intelligent girl who gained a scholarship to the prestigious St Regis school, otherwise filled with the sons and daughters of the rich of London Agatha doesn’t really fit in, and has a number of nicknames, including the titular Agatha Oddly, but she doesn’t let that stop her! She’s set up her on detective agency, much to the chagrin of her headmaster! Agatha has grown up pretty independently and on occasion acts fairly rashly in her quest for answers, on a couple of occasions I found myself wondering why she thought something was a good idea, and then I remember I didn’t always make the smartest decisions when I was thirteen, and I must confess I probably still don’t!
I think Agatha was a lovely character, she was very easy to emphasise with, especially regarding the loss of her mother. I definitely identified with her having spent much of my childhood with my nose buried in a mystery book, and I must confess her ‘changing channel’ ability would have come in useful over the years!
There are a few secondary characters we get to know over the course of the book, Liam Lau is Agatha’s best friend at St Regis and the Hastings to her Poirot. As Agatha’s investigation continued and the stakes began to rise he begins to worry about her which I found quite sweet, I really liked the fact that when she needed him he was there. Then we have the Chic Clique (or Carbon Copies as they’re known to everyone else) – Sarah, Ruth and Brianna, the CCs are your typical mean girls at St Regis, pretty and popular and not afraid to treat those that don’t fit the mould like Agatha badly, the trio start out as fairly basic characters but one of them stands out by the end of the novel and I’m looking forward to seeing if this continues in the next book in the series. There are some other interesting characters we’re introduced to along the way, who I won’t talk about now as I don’t want to spoil anything but I’m looking forward to discovering more about them in future books!
Would I Recommend?
Agatha Oddly and the Secret Key reminded me of the mystery books that formed such a huge part of my childhood. With a fun plot, and great characters it’s a fantastic adventurous mystery for younger children and a fun quick read for us adults! I’m looking forward to catching up with Agatha again when I pick up the sequel, Agatha Oddly and the Murder at the Museum.
Want to buy it?
As always if you’ve read the book let me know what you thought! If you’ve not read it yet will my review convince you to pick it up?