As you know we are always on the look out for books and authors to recommend for you to try, especially if they are reminiscent of our favourite author, Enid Blyton. Of course for Fiona and I, working in libraries we have a high chance at being able to spot some more obscure titles that we wouldn’t have necessarily known about.
This book, Diamonds and Daggers by Elen Caldecott is one of those. The second one in the series happened to pass over my counter one day and I decided to look deeper into the series. Not only did I discover the Marsh Road Mysteries, but also another mystery book to review as well at a later date. However, it’s time to take a closer look at Diamonds and Daggers and whether it deserves to be on our ‘If you like Blyton’ list.
What’s it about?
Well when we’re looking for a “like Blyton” book often the main ingredient is that of children solving mysteries. This is where authors like Helen Moss and Lauren St John come in with their adventure books. Elen Caldecott is the same. We’re introduced to a group of three children Piotr, Minnie and Andrew, who live on Marsh Road and have been friends for a long long time. They make up three fifths of our core group. Slightly later on in the book we’re joined by twins Flora and Sylvie who are very much like chalk and cheese, however identical – it’s nice for an author not to fall into the trap of “boy and girl twins who looked identical”. There has to only be so many times you can use that one without people pulling it apart! I’m sure all you avid Enid Blyton fans know as well as I do about the ongoing debate on how non-identical twins can look exactly the same. Yeah I don’t understand how it could occur either.
Anyway when we get to Marsh Road, there is excitement in the form of a Hollywood movie star called Betty Massino who is coming to make her British stage debut, and the even bigger excitement is that her expensive diamond necklace is stolen. Piotr’s dad is part of the security team in the theatre and because he left his post around the time of the diamonds being stolen, suspicion falls on him. Piotr, whose parents come from Poland, is under threat of being moved away from his friends and back to Poland as his father feels cast aside and disrespected by the English who all label him guilty. Piotr, Minnie, Andrew, Flora and Sylvie all join forces to prove that Piotr’s father did not steal the diamonds from Betty Massino.
In the spirit of the Famous Five, and other teams before them, the Marsh Road detective agency power up, and set their brains to the case. The have a log book where they record all their leads, such as conversations with their suspects, and pictures of things that might be relevent to their investigation. They also shun all help from adults, believing that they will be told to stop and not interfere.
Needless to say the well oiled team of children manages to stop Piotr being taken back to Poland – oh and the diamonds are found and the bad guy sent to prison. How Blytonian is that? Huzzah for child detectives!
Diamonds and Daggers stands out from the other books we’ve reviewed for many reasons but I think it has the closest resemblance to a Blyton adventure story to date. The staunch loyalty of the children to one another makes it worthy of any Blyton novel. Minnie and Andrew are not going to give up their friend Piotr without a fight, even if that means doing some pretty daring things to keep him, which shows how strong their bond is.
Flora and Sylvie join the other three later on in the book, but it is Flora who really glues the twins to the other three. Her kindness, level headedness and complete difference from her twin make her likeable and a champion to the three friends. Sylvie is a bit of a drama queen, and given that she is starring in the play with the Hollywood star, Betty Massino, you can well believe it. The fact that twins are so different really does make a difference from the standard Blyton twins, who largely get on. Flora and Sylvie are more like Harry and Guy Lawdler from Five on a Secret Trail and possibly like Connie and Ruth from The Upper Fourth at Malory Towers. The thing about these twins is that they work together while being totally separate people with different ambitions in life which makes them feel more like real people.
Caldecott does a wonderful job at making these characters real, making them three dimensional. The crisis that Piotr goes through on his investigations, especially when he worries that his friends will think he is “as bad as his dad” when he accidentally pinches a good luck card from Betty Massino’s dressing room, make him more like a real person, with ‘modern day’ anxieties about real things. He is very worried about being made to move to Poland and leave his friends behind, as he keeps saying to his parents;
It’s a good point really, because he was born in England (I assume) he is a first generation to be born in England he doesn’t feel the ties with Poland that his parents do. Hense why he is so insistent to stay in England.
Minnie and Andrew are also have their three dimensional sides as well. They don’t want to lose Piotr, so will do everything for him and trying to keep him in England. However, Andrew, for example, is a young career for his mum. Her illness isn’t mentioned too much but we know she has physio and he has to be at home at certain times to look after her. He may be a bit dippy but he is caring and seemingly mature for his age.
Minnie on the other hand likes to organise things in her mother’s salon, and is very worldly-wise. She knows about the ‘protection’ of the local gangsters when the others aren’t aware of such things. She’s a very down to earth young lady even when it comes to the huge Hollywood star in her hometown.
Diamonds and Daggers is like looking at a modern Famous Five or Five Find-Outers and Dog, it honestly is. There is something wonderful about this novel, Elen Caldecott manages to make wonderful three dimensional characters and the story surrounding them is very strong and well done.
Just a common thing that comes up on the reviews on Goodreads is that the book was not long enough and I happen to agree. The ending feels like a bit of a rush, but it is all satisfactorily tied up and sorted out.
I really recommend this book as an “if you like Blyton’ read. I can’t wait to get my hands on the next one to see what happens to our new Mystery Solvers. Nice one Elen Caldecott!