If you like Blyton: The Adventurers and the Continental Chase by Jemma Hatt

As you might remember I have reviewed three of Jemma Hatt’s books already:

The Adventurers and the Cursed Castle
The Adventurers and the Temple of Treasure
The Adventurers and the City of Secrets

I listened to all of the above on audiobook, but for this fourth instalment I have an actual physical (signed no less!) copy, as with the others, kindly provided by Jemma for me to read and review. I can still hear Ciaran Saward’s excellent narration in my head, though with all the different voices he gives the characters.

I am guilty of letting this book sit on my shelves for so long that there are actually two more books in the series out now,

The Adventurers and the Jungle Jeopardy
The Adventurers and the Sea of Discovery

(Image above taken from Jemma Hatt’s Facebook page).

Does it snow in Portugal?

Well, actually, yes it does – but only in January in the mountains in the north. But that’s not where the snowmobile scene in the cover occurs.

Let me rewind. I’ve probably read the blurb or some other description of this book before, but I didn’t refresh my memory before I began reading. Having a snowy scene on the covers and a snowmobile motif above each chapter heading, I somehow got it into my head that the snowmobiles and snow were going to be a much bigger part of the story than they actually are.

I mean, the title is Continental Chase implying that they travel to at least a few European countries. The book begins with the children discovering that Uncle Herb (of Kexley Castle) had won a holiday to Portugal but as he doesn’t like leaving the castle he just put the letter in a drawer.

Lara’s mother, when she finds out, is keen to go, and of course the hoard of children also want to go. It’s all sorted quickly that she and Tom’s mother will take the two plane tickets, while the children are driven by Dee and Logan, thus allowing them to embark on an adventure.

But how do they get from heading to Portugal to needing snowmobiles?

Detour one: Paris

Although the drive is already going to be some 22 hours at least, the children (at this point Lara, Rufus, Tom and Daisy) persuade Logan that it would be good to go via Paris. Logan owes Dee a trip to Paris as he cancelled on her the last time, so he’s easily persuaded. The real reason, however, is that Maye is in Paris and has been following some suspicious people from her hotel.

Her suspicions are pretty flimsy, but as it’s only an extra forty or fifty minutes on the road (and an overnight stop) they don’t see the harm in going, even though they also think she’s making a mystery out of nothing.

At this point I started getting a bit stressed about them even making it to Portugal and their free holiday. I was starting to wonder how much of the two week holiday they would get to enjoy. Fourteen days, minus 1-2 days travel each end, minus a day in Paris… but I reminded myself that the children would probably have a much better time on an adventure than lazing by a pool anyway.

As it turns out Maye’s suspicious people are actually quite suspicious. Logan gets passed a mysterious envelope by mistake (a la Five on a Hike Together), the suspicious people really don’t like the kids watching them, and Karim (Maye’s brother) disappears after taking a fake phone call from their hotel.

Detour two: the Alps

As the police are unhelpful (they are kind but seem to think that Karim will just turn up of his own accord), the group decide to travel to the co-ordinates that they found in the envelope.

This is in the Alps, but it doesn’t say exactly where. They they arrive the locals speak French, so they’re possibly still in France but it could also be Switzerland. Either way, they’re going well out of their way from Portugal.

This is where they get the snowmobiles, loaned to them by Leo whose family have a hire place. Having driven the snowmobiles up the mountain they find an abandoned factory and one small clue, some writing carved into the floor.

Much like in Five Fall Into Adventure, it’s from the kidnapping victim and mentions where they’re being taken next.

Karim had more time than George, it would seem, so he was able to write a proper note (in Arabic, thus proving the writer was him, much like George’s Rs identify her writing) saying that he was being taken to Rome, possibly the Basilica.

On their way down the mountain they have a James-Bond-esque showdown with the enemy and the girls do a very George-worthy bit of sabotage with the enemy snowmobiles.

Detour three: Rome

Going even further out of their way (yes I was still stressed by the thought of that lovely holiday going to waste!) they head to Rome and more specifically the Basilica in the Vatican City.

Here the book takes on shades of the Dan Brown series – the Da Vinci Code etc – as they split up to explore and look for Karim while trying to avoid the enemy. In a further Dan Brown-worthy plot, one of the enemy turns out to be not what he seems, and the children briefly team up with him. But is he what he then seems to be, or is he a double-crosser?

With all four sets of coordinates in the children’s hands, thanks to the their brief collaboration with the maybe enemy, another Da Vinci style puzzle awaits. All four clues together should lead them to a final location where the ancient treasure is hidden.

But first – they need to rescue Karim. With him free the children are told to butt out of the mystery and finally they start heading for Portugal. (Thank goodness, I thought).

But wait… it’s not over

Having solved the final clue (think National Treasure and The Five Find-Outers, two things that seem unlikely to have much in common but definitely do) they discover that the final place is actually only an hour or so from their holiday house.

So of course they are going to see it through! They get there early in the morning and run into the definitely enemies and also the maybe enemy. They find the treasure, but it’s a bit of a hollow victory with the enemy standing over them about to snatch it from them, and it’s only thanks to Barney that it turns out all right in the end.

Grown-ups and technology

This book in particular features a lot of two things that Blyton’s books don’t – grown-ups and technology.

They do get rid of the most sensible adults which helps, but a bunch of kids can’t really travel around Europe solving mysteries without access to money and a mode of transport. That’s what Logan and Dee are in the story to provide – they do the driving and pay for hotel rooms.

I gave Logan the nickname of Liability Logan in this book as he really is hopeless. Dee is a lot better (she pulls off her own vehicular sabotage towards the end of the book) but she along with Logan are pretty easily side-lined when necessary for the kids to go do their thing.

Their phones are used quite a bit – mostly as they need maps a lot to work out the coordinates and how to get there, but they also use them to keep in touch when they split up in Rome. The girls are rather glued to them at the start of the book which is remarked on by the boys, and they talk a few times about school gossip which they pass on via their phones, but other than that they don’t use their phones much.

A few last thoughts that didn’t fit anywhere else – I can see a similarity to the Lone Pine books with the group of adventurers growing larger though nobody was added in this book, except Leo temporarily. I can’t see him becoming a regular as he lives rather far away! Mind you, Maye has become a regular and is moving to London so there’s hope for Leo yet.

I was mildly disappointed that – like so many modern publications – there aren’t illustrations in the book (other than the snowmobile chapter headers). I think that her books are independently published (the listed publisher is Elmside Publishing which seems to only have published the six Adventurers books) which is probably a major factor. I know that Jemma Hatt has recently become a full-time author, so I would love it if she was picked up by a traditional publisher (as long as that was what she wanted!) and for her books to be reissued with illustrations – preferably by Andrew Smith who does the front covers.

This fourth instalment has more in common with the third book in terms of genre, than it does with the first two. Although not as detective-ish as book three it took the idea of following a trail and expanded it across Europe rather than sticking to one city. I hope that some of the later books in the series feature more of the brilliant puzzle/traps that appeared in the first two books, but again I didn’t miss them too much as there was so much going on as they raced around France and Italy.

Another strong entry to the series!

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