The Case of the Smuggler’s Curse   

by Mark Dawson

Published by Welbeck Flame

Mark Dawson (who has co-written this with Allan Boroughs) lives in Southwold which is where he sets the first in his children’s adventure series.

It’s clever stuff. Overtly inspired by the Famous Five the protagonists are four gloriously modern children and a feisty dog named Sherlock. Lucy is a very tall athlete, Max is a brown skinned tech buff, artistic Joe has wealthy, selfish, quarrelling parents and Charlie has, I suspect, gender identity issues. 

Cautiously they become friends when they notice strange activity in and around the harbour and, of course, they are eventually the ones who are instrumental in sorting out the criminals.

The strengths of each child contribute to the outcome. They’re a good team. Any child aged, say 8-12, who is drawn to the Famous Five but put off by its datedness will like this. It isn’t easy to contrive plausible ways of letting children operate in an adult-free world in these days of tight parenting but Dawson (and Boroughs) have found neat ways of doing it.   

I wasn’t over inspired by Ben Mantle’s cover and illustrations but the novel is pacey, engaging and well written. And the Southwold ambience makes you want to revisit as soon as possible. The next title in the After-School Detective Club series is imminent.

Age 8yrs +  

Review by Susan Elkin