Tuesday 18 December 2012

The Messenger Bird by Ruth Eastham

Reviewed by Jackie Marchant

The opening of this book reminded me of one of my favourites, The Railway Children – a close family enjoying a bonfire party, when Dad is suddenly and inexplicably arrested.  He is suspected of selling government secrets for money, but his family know he is innocent.  But this is a modern family and they don’t all go off to live a frugal life in the country, while the children are kept in the dark about what has happened to their father.

In fact, thirteen year old Nathan’s dad gives him a coded message at the point of his arrest.  Nathan now has a clue that will lead to the evidence that will prove his dad’s innocence and the real culprit’s guilt.  But Nathan swears to tell no one about it, because his father warns him to trust no one.  Now he alone must follow the trail that starts once he solves the clue his dad gave him.

The trail turns out to be one that was set in 1940 by the mysterious Lily, who used to live in the house that Nathan’s family now live in.  As Nathan follows the trail, Lily herself becomes more interesting, and we soon see that there is a story to tell there as well.

The book is fast paced and holds interest at several levels – the solving of clues to follow the trail, the emerging story of Lily, the race against time to save Dad, and the continuing threat from those who need the evidence destroyed.  Who can Nathan trust?

Eventually, he lets his two closest friends in on the secret and the three of them set on a quest to find the truth.  It isn’t easy of course, which only adds to the tension.  The two mysteries, Lily’s and Dad’s, come together in a dramatic climax.
Despite its thrilling spy theme, this is a book that is grounded in reality, which makes it all the more believable.  It is an exciting, enjoyable read.



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