Nancy Parker’s Spooky Speculations by Julia Lee

The Blurb On The Back:

I am sitting up in bed in my new room.

It’s the middle of the night & I haven’t had a wink of sleep.  My ears are out on stalks & my eyes are peeled – every bit of me is ready to detect another STRANGE OCCURRENCE.

Not that anything has happened.

But I fear it will.

Nancy Parker thinks her luck is in when she finds the perfect job in an old house by the sea.

But strange noises and ghostly appearances soon set Nancy dusting off her detective skills.  And who better to help than her old friend, Ella Otter?  But what spooky secrets will they find as they delve into the mystery?

Who (or what) is making the mysterious creaks and thumps that only Nancy hears?  Does someone (or something) want them out of the house?  And what dangers do the dark, dank cellars hold?  

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

It’s September 1920, a few weeks after NANCY PARKER’S DIARY OF DETECTION.  Nancy’s been working on a fruit and vegetable stall, which she’s found pretty boring.  Then her friend, Ella Otter writes to her with good news: Miss Dearing (the vegetarian owner of an animal sanctuary) has inherited a large country house called Oxcoombe Grange and needs a housekeeper to run it for her.  The house is close enough to Seabourne for the girls to meet up (Ella has started at a new school and hates it) and Miss Dearing – despite her strange ideas – is a kind employer.

But even so there’s also something spooky going on at Oxcoombe Grange.  Nancy keeps hearing strange noises and the house’s weird decorations keep falling off the walls.  Ella’s thrilled to have a new mystery to solve but Nancy’s been reading gothic horror novels and for all her own detective skills, she’s worried that there are supernatural forces at work …

The second in Julia Lee’s historical mystery series for children aged 9+ is a disjointed affair with too many parts that didn’t (for me) make for a satisfying whole and while I greatly enjoy the fact that this has a working class detective and the illustrations by Chloe Bonfield are great, I was disappointed that Quentin didn’t even get a mention given his role in the first book.  Nancy remains an interesting character – I like the fact that her perspective is informed by her working class background and the book is at its best when she comments on how Ella’s advantages makes her ignorant of Nancy’s own position.  I also enjoyed the relationship between Nancy and her family and would love to see some scenes with them all together.  Ella also gets more development here – I enjoyed the conflict she has with her school and its rules (which she finds pointless) but she didn’t have enough contact with Nancy to propel the investigation forward and it’s a real shame that neither girl mentions Quentin from the first book given everything they went through.  The side characters (Ears, Spud and Peg) don’t get much to do and a spiritualist side plot doesn’t really go anywhere (indeed Ella’s storyline involving a rival schoolgirl is all a bit tenuous and dull).  Ultimately I’m fond enough of the characters to be interested in checking out a third book in this series, but this book didn’t live up to the promise in the first.

NANCY PARKER’S SPOOKY SPECULATIONS was released in the United Kingdom on 5th January 2017.  Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

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