Genre: Mystery Age Range: MG Star Rating: 4.5 Stars Series: yes - first book
When eleven-year-old Harrison “Hal” Beck is forced to accompany his travel-writer uncle on the last journey of a royal train, he expects a boring trip spent away from video games and children his age.
But then Hal spots a girl who should not be on board, and he quickly makes friends with the stowaway, Lenny. Things get even more interesting when the royal prince and princess board for the last leg of the journey—because the princess’s diamond necklace is soon stolen and replaced with a fake! Suspicion falls on the one person who isn’t supposed to be there: Lenny.
It’s up to Hal, his keen observation, and his skill as a budding sketch artist to uncover the real jewel thief, clear his friend’s name, and return the diamond necklace before The Highland Falcon makes its last stop.
Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.
THE HIGHLAND FALCON THIEF mystery takes the classic “mystery on train” trope and brings into the modern day and adapts it for Middle Grade. Having read a lot of YA mysteries recently, it was really fun to read it in another age range for a change.
The trope works so well because it’s a closed environment. No one can get in or out, so someone on board must be the thief. Everyone is a suspect. And of course, most people have a motive and/or have been acting suspiciously thanks to all their tangled secrets. I had just got to the “reveal of the thief” with everyone sitting in the lounge when I had to run to lectures, which has to be the worst place to put a book down.
I love that Hal was an artist, and that it was how he concentrated and thought. It was so different to other mysteries that I’d read, and the visual elements lends itself to MG really well. His “scene pictures” and the illustrations throughout really added to the story as I could see what Hal was drawing, not just having it described. It also brings you into Hal’s mind and voice far better.
Hal’s uncle is a great mentor figure, feeling both reasonably young (so Hal could relate to him) and very knowledgeable about trains.
It’s adapted for Middle Grace thanks to the increased pace and hiding in small linen closets to eavesdrop on the police. There’s also more action than in, say, Christie – you won’t see Poirot climbing along the outside of a train!
The setting was so much fun – clearly written by at least one steam train fan. The passion came through, reminding me of my Grandpa. Even though it’s set in the modern day, the train feels very much from the grand age of stream, everything lavish and warm. It made me want to stay on a luxury steam train.
Read my reviews of other books by M. G. Leonard and Sam Sedgman:
Adventures on Trains (this series):
- KIDNAP ON THE CALIFORNIA COMET (#2)
- MURDER ON THE SAFARI STAR (#3)
- DANGER AT DEAD MAN’S PASS (#4)
- SABOTAGE ON THE SOLAR EXPRESS (#5)
By M. G. Leonard: