Jacqueline Harvey, Alice-Miranda Holds the Key (Alice-Miranda #15), Random House Australia, Jan 2017, 384pp., $16.99 (pbk), ISBN: 9780143780700
Having been assigned the 15th book in the Alice Miranda series to review I saw it as an opportunity to find out what lies between the colourful covers displaying a pretty wide-eyed girl wearing various lovely outfits. I also wanted to find out why they appeal to so many girls.
It seems that a lot of the appeal is in Alice Miranda’s character. Although she is an unrealistic character who is perfectly kind and charming as well as poised and confident beyond her years, I can see why 8-10 year old girls would admire her.
In addition, young readers could vicariously enjoy Alice Miranda’s privileged lifestyle in an idyllic English “upper crust” country setting where opportunities for adventures and schoolgirl antics are aplenty.
This 15th book centres around events at Alice Miranda’s parents’ estate of Highton Hall, when she is home from boarding before the holidays due to a horse riding accident.
The mysterious happenings in Alice Miranda’s life and the colourful characters who populate the story make for engaging reading. Is Kennington’s food manufacturing empire, owned by Alice Miranda’s parents, the cause of a food poisoning outbreak affecting hundreds of people? Could the bad-tempered doctor at the children’s hospital, Dr Adrienne Treloar, and her reclusive husband Bentley be implicated in the food poisoning scandal? What is the dark secret of Highton Hall’s new neighbour, Jemima Tavistock? Most worrying of all is the drama of the hapless and home sick schoolgirl, Chessie, who gets off the train before her stop and takes refuge in a shed at Highton Hall. Solutions to these mysteries and problems are slowly revealed keeping the reader guessing. In the end, all is resolved in a satisfying, but sometimes too predictable, way.
There is an enjoyable bubbly and cheerful tone to the story, and some suspenseful events that will keep the reader turning the pages. I recommend it for girls in upper primary years.
Reviewed by Barbara Swartz