Jack of Spades (Sophie Masson, Eagle Books)
Prolific writer Sophie Masson’s latest book is a young-adult historical fiction, set in Europe in 1910. The book’s title refers to a card sent to 16-year-old English girl, Linda, from France. Thanks to her mum’s tutoring of the secret meanings of cards, Linda knows that the Jack of Spades is a code for ‘treachery and danger’. But who sent it to her, and why? Her father Charles, a mild-mannered Shakespearean scholar, is over in Paris on a study trip and Linda fears the card is a warning that he’s in trouble, so she crosses the channel on a rescue mission. Soon, however, her probing lands her in deep waters. This adventure story has as many twists as it does characters, but the tale is more confusing than it needs to be for young readers (it’s probably best for late primary upwards due to the violence). There are murders, secret agents, double identities, bank robberies and organised crime rings with international ties. It all seems a little bit unlikely and melodramatic that a teenager could be so caught up in all of this. Nonetheless, Linda acquits herself well as a heroine. She’s resourceful and plucky (and being bilingual certainly helps too).
Thuy On is a freelance arts journalist and reviewer and the books editor of the Big Issue