DISCLAIMER – I was sent a free copy of this book in return for a fair and unbiased review
‘The sides of the path were overgrown with nettles and weeds, the path itself strewn with the various by-products of the nearby takeaway. I pressed on beyond the neglected scene, arriving at a patch of grass that sloped gently down the river’
Budding writer Lorna Bryson is struggling to come to terms with the recent death of her father when she meets Monkey Arkwright, the boy who loves to climb. The two strike up an immediate rapport, and Monkey challenges her to write about him, claiming that he can show her things that are worth writing about.
True to his word, Lorna is catapulted into Monkey’s world of climbing and other adventures in the churches, woodlands and abandoned places in and around their home town of Culverton Beck.
When the two teenagers find an ancient coin in the woods, claims from potential owners soon flood in, including the mysterious Charles Gooch, who is adamant that the coin is his. But this is only the opening act in a much larger mystery that has its roots in some dark deeds that took place more than a century earlier.
Combining their talents, Lorna and Monkey set about fitting the pieces together in a tale of budding friendship, train-obsessed simpletons, the shadow of Napoleon and falling pianos.
What I thought
For me the reason this story works is because the whole way through the book I was second guessing what was going on and what side were the good/bad guys. It’s not that Lorna is an unreliable narrator it’s just that she’s a teenager and I don’t trust the adults around her. Which makes for a really interesting read.
The premise of this book is that there are historical items imbued with (good) luck – lucky coin or a lucky clock etc – that Lorna and Monkey are roped into helping to find. The problem is their roped in by a suspicious old millionaire, an priest who has left the church to follow this ‘cult’ of luck, and an ex-thief. They are told that they need to find the objects before the bad guys find it, the black heart, who turn the objects from being a good kind of lucky to a bad kind of lucky. I’m just going to repeat who the adults are that Lorna and Monkey trust, because I’m really not sure they should be.
A millionaire old man. Yes say thank you for returning the lucky coin but asking for them do to a job for you that involves finding things? Frankly I’m not surprised that the adult with them immediately thought it involved stealing. Because… well… what else could it be? And ‘reclaiming lost objects’ is definitely some form of stealing
An ex-priest who stopped believing in god and instead travels the states looking for news about lucky objects. He left the church and joined a cult because no one told him that there would be bad days and he’d have to do full family funerals and funerals for kids.
An ex-thief. Who is quite open about the fact that the reason he’s good at his job of ‘finding’ things is because he’s gone from being a Blackhat to a Whitehat. That doesn’t mean he’s not stealing things just that he’s doing it for a ‘good’ reason.
I say again, I do not trust these adult and it meant that I was doubting everything they told Lorna and Monkey about Gooch (the ‘bad’ guy). Bringing in teenagers to help fight your battles because one is very good at climbing and the other is good at research is not a good idea. Also he GAVE THEM BURNER PHONES. I’m really not okay with this.
Even in the end when I decided that Gooch was definitely a bad guy, I was not convinced that Lorna and Monkey were working for the good guys. Stealing objects and locking them away before the bad guys get them is still stealing. The bad guys at least give it back – I mean they give it back with the luck reversed but the person isn’t missing it anymore.
I really enjoy that the magic is luck magic and both sides of that is explored. What does it mean to have a good lucky item and to have a bad lucky item. I always thought that luck is both under and overestimated. Being lucky just means unlikely things happening and that can be both negative and positive.
Lorna and Monkey are both interesting characters and written well. It is clear that Monkey is younger than Lorna from the very beginning when he says that he doesn’t “like” climbing he “loves” it. It’s a really small detail but it ages Monkey. There are multiple times when you can tell that the two are new friends as they haven’t quite learned when to push a subject and when to leave it alone. I’d be interested to see what happens to their friendship when it’s no longer the holidays and ‘real life’ starts to get in the way.
Why I read it
I was offered a free copy for review, but I said yes because I was interested in the idea of exploring your hometown in a different way, ancient treasure, and a mystery.
It just sounded interesting.
This book works because the whole way through I didn’t know what side I should be routing for and if I should be concerned for Lorna and Monkey. It was only at the very end that I was able to make up my mind and even now it wouldn’t take much to convince me otherwise; just because I know that one side is definitely bad doesn’t mean that the other side is good.
Did I enjoy it? Yes
Am I glad I read it? Yeah
Would I read again? Probably not, but I would be interested in reading the 2nd at some point
Would I recommend? I would suggest this one to people but it’s not an instant recommendation the way that some others are.
About the Author
Rob Campbell was born in the blue half of Manchester.
He studied Electrical & Electronic Engineering at Manchester Polytechnic, gaining an honours degree, but the fact that he got a U in his Chemistry O-Level helps to keep him grounded.
Having had a belly full of capacitors and banana plugs, on graduation he transferred his skills to software engineering. He still writes code by day, but now he writes novels by night. Listing his pastimes in no particular order, he loves music, reading and holidays, but he is partial to the words and music of Bruce Springsteen.
His favourite authors are David Morrell, Joe Abercrombie, Scott Lynch & Carlos Ruiz Zafón.
He lives in Manchester with his wife and two daughters.