The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow by Katherine Woodfine
Published: June 2015
Genre: middle grade, mystery, historical fiction
You are cordially invited to attend the Grand Opening of Sinclair’s department store!
Enter a world of bonbons, hats, perfumes and MYSTERIES around every corner. WONDER at the daring theft of the priceless CLOCKWORK SPARROW! TREMBLE as the most DASTARDLY criminals in London enact their wicked plans! GASP as our bold heroines, Miss Sophie Taylor and Miss Lilian Rose, CRACK CODES, DEVOUR ICED BUNS and vow to bring the villians to justice…
Sophie is thrilled to start her first job at what the newspapers are calling the finest department store in London, opening in just a few more days. On the night before the grand opening, a priceless jeweled clockwork sparrow is stolen from one of the exhibition rooms, and Sophie is the last person seen in that room. With evidence piling up against her, Sophie seeks help from porter Billy and model Lil to solve the mystery.
I adore middle grade mysteries! They’re so much fun, and English authors know just how to write enjoyable detective fiction for the young and young-at-heart. I hope the US audience will get a chance to read Woodfine’s work, because it’s such a delight!
This felt like a mixture of the quick wit in Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries and the glittering eye-candy of Mr. Selfridge and The Paradise. Sophie is a sweet character and determined to do well in the department store, but she’s met with opposition everywhere she turns. She used to live in a fine home, but circumstances have brought her down to the working class. She doesn’t mind, but she wishes the other shopgirls would treat her as an equal. When it came time to defend herself, Sophie was reasonably distraught, but the majority of the legwork in the mystery-solving was conducted by Billy (who is sweet on her and loves detective comics) and mannequin (model) Lil, who is very much like Phryne Fisher in how she goes about cracking cases! Even Joe, the homeless “lost boy” trying to escape a gang (which comes into play later, of course!) has clues to share to solve the mystery.
I cannot write a review without mentioning the setting! Sinclair’s is a beautiful and fascinating department store. Pets, food, clothes, toys, trinkets, you name it and it’s there! Department stores aren’t quite like this anymore — a full-on experience and assault to the senses. It makes the mystery even more intriguing and electrifying when a tiny but important clockwork sparrow is stolen. Of all the sparkling items and expensive china and luxurious fabrics, this sparrow is what turns the department store upside down. In the author’s note, Woodfine suggest the store is a bit like the 6-story Waterstones in Piccadilly. Having been there twice now, I’d have to say that’s exactly how I picture Sinclair’s!
If you get the chance, you need to get your hands on this adorable MG mystery. It’s a must-have for your detective collection.