Taylor & Rose Secret Agents: Peril In Paris by Katherine Woodfine

The Blurb On The Back:

ALL ABOARD THE TRAIN TO PARIS!

It’s 1911, and the young detectives of Taylor & Rose are turning their talents to espionage.

On a case for the mysterious Secret Service Bureau, the daring Miss Sophie Taylor and Miss Lillian Rose must leave London for the boulevards and grand hotels of Paris.

But danger lurks beneath the bright lights of the city – and intrigue and murder lie in store.  As aeroplanes soar in the skies overhead, our heroines will need to put all their spy skills to the test to face the peril that awaits them …

Join Sophie and Lil on their first secret agent adventure!

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

It’s 1911 and over a year has passed since the events in THE MIDNIGHT PEACOCK.  Sophie Taylor and Lillian Rose have each turned 17 and their detective agency has gone from strength to strength, taking on more staff and expanding its offices and both girls continue to work with their friends in the Order of Lions as they seek to thwart the Fraternitas Draconum.  But it’s the Secret Service Bureau that takes up most of the girls’ time as they’re sent on assignments designed to foil the machinations of the German spymaster Ziegler where they can use society’s preconceptions of women to their advantage as they pick safes, wear disguises and steal secrets from German agents.

Lil is currently out of the country, performing a special assignment for the Bureau’s Chief, but he has a special task for Sophie. One of the Bureau’s agents – Professor Blaxland – has been murdered in Paris and his apartment ransacked.  The French police think it’s a burglary gone wrong but the Bureau aren’t so sure.  Sophie must post as Blaxland’s wealthy niece and go to Paris to investigate for herself.  Taking Tilly with her to serve as maid (and make use of her scientific and engineering expertise), Sophie is soon among the bright lights of Paris where she soon finds herself embroiled with German spies, mysterious codes and a daring airplane competition as dashing young pilots attempt to cross Europe in their precarious flying machines …

Meanwhile in the tiny European country of Arnovia, 13-year-old Princess Anna and 11-year-old Crown Prince Alex live in Wilderstein Castle with their guardians, the Count and Countess von Wilderstein (their parents having been assassinated when they were little).  Anna is bored with her life of embroidery, etiquette and endless lectures from the Countess on their family history and wants nothing more than to go to boarding school, envious that her brother will get to go instead.  But when their grandfather, King Leopold, decides that the children need a new governess, Anna is sure that there’s something suspicious about Miss Carter. She never seems to leave them alone and her lessons are decidedly unorthodox while she knows nothing of royal protocol.  Anna is sure that there’s something amiss and she’s determined to get to the bottom of it …

Katherine Woodfine’s latest historical adventure for children aged 9+ continues the SINCLAIR MYSTERIES SERIES, combining mystery and espionage to fast-paced effect while featuring evocative illustrations by Karl James Mountford.  Because Sophie and Lil are older now, Woodfine introduces the younger characters of Anna and Alex to keep the target audience interested while making full and clever use of the intrigue and paranoia of the period.

What I really like about this book is how Woodfine recognises and allows Sophie and Lil to get older so that they’re now becoming young women of 17 making their way in the world and dealing with the expectations and restrictions that this entailed in the time but simultaneously Woodfine introduces the younger character of Anna who’s closer to the target age group.  This way, readers who have followed Sophie and Lil from the SINCLAIR MYSTERIES SERIES can continue with their adventures but there’s also someone in the book who younger readers can relate to.  You do need to read the SINCLAIR MYSTERIES SERIES in order to get the most out of this book, not least because Woodfine seems to be using the on-going machinations of the Fraternitas Draconum as the over-arching story arc for this new series while also drawing parallels between Sophie and the trip that her mother took to Europe (shown through the use of her mother’s diary extracts).  I very much enjoyed how she uses the espionage elements to give additional colour as it cleverly ties in how spy adventures really took hold of the public imagination during this period coupled with the very real paranoia about Germany and its territorial desires. Also good is the way she incorporates the emergency of airplane technology and the pioneers who were popularising it across Europe.

The story unfolds in two plot strands – Sophie’s investigation into Professor Blaxland’s murder and Anna’s discovery of a plot against the Arnovian monarchy.  Woodfine balances these neatly and draws them together in a way that’s very satisfying without sacrificing any pace and she gets the mix of mystery and adventure exactly right.

Sophie gets a little more character development here than Lil (in part because of the way the plot is structured) but I liked her reflective attitude and her frustration at some of the attitudes expressed by the men she works with (and against!).  I wished there’d been a little more interaction between her and Tilly (who I was pleased to see appear here and who is pursuing her science and engineering goals) but I was interested to see how Woodfine ends the book by once again splitting Sophie and Lil at the end of the book as they each pursue their own adventures, which gives them each space to grow apart from each other.

Anna is a sparky character with frustrations of her own as she contemplates how unfair it is that Alex can go to school but she can’t. I enjoyed her developing relationship with Lil as they share the same inquisitive nature and I would have liked to have seen that investigated a little more.

All in all, this is a thoroughly enjoyable read that promises a great successor series to the SINCLAIR MYSTERIES and I will definitely check out the next book.

TAYLOR & ROSE SECRET AGENTS: PERIL IN PARIS was released in the United Kingdom on 9thAugust 2018.  Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

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