What to read after... Dread Wood 28/02/24
Gracie Fairshaw and the Mysterious Guest
Publisher: Uclan Publishing
Fourteen-year-old Gracie and her family have just moved to Blackpool, to fulfil Ma’s ambition of running a boarding house by the sea. Barely have they had time to unpack their own cases, before Ma mysteriously vanishes, leaving Gracie, little brother George and new friends Tom and Violet to set about unravelling the mystery. Was their mother hiding a secret from her past, has she now come to harm and does one of the intriguing group of guests boarding at the Majestic hold the answers?
The year is 1935 and authenticity of both period and location shine through. Evocative descriptions of the illuminations, pleasure beach and hot chips by the pier challenge any reader not to crave a taste of Blackpool. The historical charm and local detail are matched by equally convincing characters, engaging enough to connect with contemporary readers. We see Gracie overcome initial reservations about their new life, face up to her dislike of crowds and find the quiet but steely determination required to manage the dangerous villain as well as the more everyday adversities life throws at her. Gracie’s limb difference is handled well, a testimony to the author’s research and commitment. Whilst we are rightly reminded of some people’s irritating responses to disability, the author cleverly dodges any tropes and avoids allowing this to take centre stage in the plot.
Satisfyingly sprinkled with clues to sniff out, this is a timeless, accessible and well-paced mystery with bags of atmosphere.