I love Fleur Hitchcock's writing. From her 'Clifftoppers' series to 'The Boy Who Flew' to this brilliant crime story for children, she's a master at creating atmosphere and intrigue with an economy of words. Her books are just hugely enjoyable and 'Waiting for Murder' is no different.
It's a stifling hot summer and Dan is spending his summer holidays in a remote village because his Mum is an archaeologist digging up old bones. But Dan discovers something too - is there a body in the car that's revealed in the dried out reservoir? Who is it? How did they get there? With the help of local girl Florence, Dan sets out to investigate. But as temperatures rise is someone trying to stop them?
What I loved so much about 'The Clifftoppers' series is what I also love about 'Waiting for Murder', although this is for slightly older readers. Fleur Hitchcock brilliantly immerses you in a simple countryside setting but sharpens it with an edge of danger. For instance, there are clear, sensual descriptions of morning dew and cobwebs before the heat rises and there's the intrigue and mystery of a possible murder. Nature is at once peaceful and beautiful and then becomes dangerous in-itself too; nothing feels safe. There are tense moments with crows, bees and hay bales - Hitchcock ensures there is always some kind of peril for Dan and Florence at each turn, while ramping up the mystery. And Hitchcock does this with a simplicity of prose that is like a sharp, keen knife, and I find it thrilling to read.
Dan and Florence are also wonderfully whole and authentic characters. Dan's voice is brilliantly realised and their responses and dialogue pull you in. Unlike the Clifftoppers series, they do use mobile phones as part of their investigation but in a way that feels natural and adds to the tension too. Again Hitchcock expertly balances the mundane, like eating fish and chips at the pub, with the shocking. I truly admire how she does this, packing a punch to the plot. The climax and ending here is riveting too, with all the threads resolving in a really satisfying way.
I can't recommend Fleur Hitchcock enough. She's one of the best children's authors out there and she's absolutely cornered the market for crime stories for children too.
Thank you to Fleur Hitchcock and Nosy Crow for my copy to review.