Gracie Fairshaw and the Mysterious Guest – Susan Brownrigg, illustrated by Jenny Czerwonka

Growing up not surprisingly I was an avid reader. A weekly trip to my local library was a must have and I devoured books about girls in boarding schools and mysteries set by the sea, in places that seemed to me to be very far away. There were no books about children like me, children who lived in the North, where a trip to the seaside was a really special day out instead of a glorious entire school holiday having adventures by the sea. So when I picked up and began to read, ‘Gracie Fairshaw and the Mysterious Guest,’ by Susan Brownrigg I felt a little sparkle of happiness. For here was a story not only set in a place where I was very familiar with – Blackpool – home to sticks of rock, donkey rides and the illuminations but also featured working class characters, whose idea of a treat was a bag of chips and if you’re really lucky some gravy to go with them. I knew that this was a story that I would really enjoy!

Gracie Fairshaw is not best pleased when her mum moves them away from all of her friends to start a new life in a boarding house. She can’t imagine having to share her home with an ever changing band of strangers, people who might stare at her and make assumptions about what she could do just because of how she looks. Things become even more strained when her Ma almost faints when she recognises one of the guests, a few hours later she disappears into thin air leaving no clues of her whereabouts. Together with her brother Tom, her new friends Violet and Tom they have to discover the true identity of this mysterious guest and solve an impossible puzzle.

Capturing all the glamour and excitement of Blackpool in the 1930s, when the illuminations were a exotic novelty and the town was renowned for it’s stunning ballrooms and elaborate gardens, this is a place where something thrilling is bound to happen. Susan brilliantly transports the reader with her wonderfully descriptive writing conjuring up all the sights and sounds of the seaside. You can hear the screams on the rollercoaster, smell the sea air and  taste the hot chips dancing on your tongue as the rain hits your face. The book is the perfect blend of mystery and peril with our young detectives having to use all of their skills and courage to outwit the sinister guest who is determined to commit the perfect crime whatever the cost. It’s rare to see physical disability represented in a middle grade story without it being part of the plot, for Gracie this is purely incidental to her life and she carries on regardless, refusing to accept the limited view that strangers may have of her abilities. It’s an absolute cracker of a mystery story and I absolutely raced through it. If you’re looking for something to fun and thrilling to read then look no further.

Thank you to Uclan Publishing for approving my Netgalley request to read this wonderful mystery. ‘Gracie Fairshaw and the Mysterious Guest,’ is available to buy now online and from any good bookshop. If you can please support your local independent bookshop.

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