Sunday, November 1, 2020

Gracie Fairshaw and the Mysterious Guest



The story is set in Blackpool 1935 around the time of the second big switch on of the illuminations. Gracie, her mum and brother George take over the running of the Majestic boarding house. Seaside boarding-houses of this era were a little different from the 21st century B & B. The family have to provide three meals a day for their guests. And they almost fall at the first post; Mum disappears and they don’t know how to cook.  However, the maid Phyllis helps as do their two new friends Violet and Tom.

There are many details of time and place here. Susan Brownrigg paints a vivid picture of what Blackpool was like then. Even the road where the boarding house is situated actually exists, though the place itself doesn’t. We have a lot of details about the trams, the tram depot, the Illuminations, the Winter Gardens and the piers.  We also have plenty of atmosphere.  One of the characters is even involved in the Mass Observation Project, though in real life this didn’t happen until 1937. Observers studied ordinary working people from Bolton, renamed Worktown.

Then there is the disappearance of their mother and the mystery surrounding Presto the magician who is also a crook. They are aided by the League of Shining Stars, a detective agency run by children.  This is inspired by the League of the Silver Star which appeared in the Blackpool edition of the Lancashire gazette.  Children were invited to become members and take part in competitions.

Mum is found.  Presto is outwitted. Gracie finds she does like living at a boarding house in Blackpool. Phyllis’s job is made permanent and she is given a pay rise. They decide that children will be offered a full English breakfast as well.

The book is 192 pages long.  The text is blocked but double-spaced. The font has a serif. The chapters are relatively short.  Chapter headings are in cursive font and are fronted with a picture of a suitcase with a question mark on it. At the end of the book there is a glossary which contains a lot more information about Blackpool,  a note form the author on her research and an author bio.           

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