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The story is set in Blackpool 1935 as Christmas approaches. But someone is trying to sabotage the Children’s Ballet Christmas spectacular. A piece of scenery injures a dancer, another dancer has itching powder put inside her costume and a several poisonous-pen letters are sent. Naughty chimps and escaping lions add to the drama. The damage the chimps do often looks like part of the sabotage.
Gracie becomes a reporter for the local newspaper. This affords the reader several details about what a writer does – and helps Gracie to do more investigating.
There are many details of time and place here. We have a glimpse of what Christmas was like back then and in a boarding house in particular. Paper chains feature in abundance.
Susan Brownrigg is a brilliant story teller. This is a well-told and well-written tale. Here The Family from One End Street, meets Noel Streatfield, meets the Secret Seven, with a good deal of quirkiness and a 21st problem thrown in. I hope Brownrigg will bring us many more episodes about Gracie.
The mystery is solved. Albert Ramsbottom was behind all of the threats and damage. A rumour goes around that he was eaten by a lion. Thus, Brownrigg cross-references to a well-known poem. Ramsbottom wrote his poison-pen letters on British Bulldog notepaper. Yes, he is a racist and targets the Russians and a Chinese girl. And we are kept guessing right up to the last few pages of the novel.
The book is 235 pages long – some forty pages longer than the first book in the series. The text is blocked but double-spaced. The font has a serif. The chapters are relatively short. Chapter headings are in a cursive font and are fronted with a picture of an envelope 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 from the author on her research about the Children’s Ballet, and an author bio.