Aggie Morton, Thriller Queen by Marthe Jocelyn

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The Aggie Morton series introduces young readers to a young Agatha Christie who is already investigating crimes in her hometown by the sea.

The body under the piano (Aggie Morton, Mystery Queen # 1) by Marthe Jocelyn. Tundra (PRH Canada), 2020, 318 pages.

Reading level: Intermediate, 10-12 years

Recommended for: 10-14 years

Although Agatha (Aggie) Morton is painfully shy, she has a vivid imagination. And there is plenty to do to spend your time in the coastal town of Torquay, England, in 1902. The death of her beloved father the previous year made a mistake, but Mummy and Grannie Jane take good care of her. In addition, she has just found a friend: Hector Perot, a Belgian orphan who shares her curiosity and love for books. As our story begins, Aggie fears an event at the local dance studio, a benefit concert for Belgian refugees. She should recite a poem of her own composition – in front of an audience! On her big night, the appearance of Mrs. Irma Eversham, a thoroughly uncomfortable woman, provides variety. But no one expected Mrs. Eversham to appear dead under the piano the next morning. When the victim's sister-in-law, sweet Miss Marianne, is arrested, Aggie knows that she must intervene and solve the crime. She's been writing mystery scenarios in her head for some time now, so it should be easy!

Introducing a 12-year-old version of Agatha Christie that solves actual crimes (against the backdrop of melodramatic transitions) is a pleasant way to familiarize young readers with the classic English crime fiction. Her introductory words set the tone:

I will first tell you how to find a new friend and keep the body for later. This follows the traditional rules of storytelling – weigh the reader with a pleasant backdrop and lively dialogue, introduce a few appealing characters and then discover – aha – a body!

The quirky narrative glasses sometimes contain realistic details of death, danger, and despair, but for the most part, it's fun. And pretty educated. A sequel, Peril at Owl Park, will appear in September.

Overall rating: 4 (of 5)

  • Weltanschauung / moral value: 3.5
  • Artistic / literary value: 4.5

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