Book Review: The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow by Katherine Woodfine

June 5, 2015

Accio Book!

Published by Egmont on 4 June 2015

Entering the world of Katherine Woodfine’s Sinclair department store is to find yourself wide eyed and surrounded by delicious descriptions of imaginary delights. With wonders that would put the room of requirement to shame, it makes you truly giddy. Remember being a child and going to a glitzy store around Christmas time, when the lights are dazzling and everything is possible? That’s the feeling you get reading The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow. Part detective story, part historical fiction and all heart….and hats.

The book itself looks absolutely stunning, with silhouettes against glowing yellow windows, deep luxurious blues and golden foil. The story inside is just as sumptuous as the lovely exterior, with huge amount of suspense and adventure. Like a welcoming arm, the book guides you in to discover the secrets of the store:

You are cordially invited to attend the Grand Opening of Sinclair’s department store! Enter a world of bonbons, hats, perfumes and MYSTERIES around every corner. WONDER at the daring theft of the priceless CLOCKWORK SPARROW! TREMBLE as the most DASTARDLY criminals in London enact their wicked plans! GASP as our bold heroines, Miss Sophie Taylor and Miss Lilian Rose, CRACK CODES, DEVOUR ICED BUNS and vow to bring the villians to justice…

At the heart of the book is the character of Sophie, whose fall from grace after the sad death of her father has left her in need of a job. Entranced along with the rest of her peers with the rumours of the grand Sinclair store, Sophie soon applies. However she won’t find the job to be as smooth running as she might hope. Sophie is a whip smart protagonist with a kind heart and a shrewd intellect. She finds herself the victim of jealous girls in the store who turn their noses up at her manners and airs and graces. However Sophie takes this in her stride and the way in which she deals with her bullies will inspire young readers to stand their ground. Her voice is vulnerable but sure, and she’d get a nod of approval from Miss Marple.

Woodfine gives Sophie a fine cast of friends whose personas are all equally engaging. The window model girl and would be actress, Miss Lilian Rose, is a mouthy and brass take no nonsense character who sweeps Sophie along and bolsters her confidence. Together they make a formidable team, a Rizzoli and Isles duo with plenty of derring do.

There’s also the young porter and penny farthing comic aficionado, Billy, who tends to get into more scrapes than he’d like due to boredom. His friendship with the girls means his life gets a bit of the adventure he’d always wanted. I found him to be a hugely entertaining addition to the cast, with his Just William sensibility and his desire to emulate those characters in his books with his own detective skills.

The mystery at the heart of the book is a good old fashioned heist drama, with the precious Clockwork Sparrow swiped from under the store owner’s nose. Woodfine drops just enough clues to rouse your suspicions and keep you guessing. Her writing style is playful and engaging, full of tongue in cheek humour and a knowing nod at the classics which so clearly inspired her.

I absolutely adored this story, a fun, sweet read full of surprises and adventure. The most wonderful thing about it aside from the absolutely stunning descriptions of the store and all its gorgeous hats, perfumes, glitz and glam, is the steadfast friendship between Sophie and Lilian. This is where you can really feel supportive female characters pulling together to get the job done, with all the style and verve of Peggy Carter. They thoroughly enjoy eachothers company, as we do theirs.

With plenty of misdirections, clues and a full cast of intriguing side characters rousing suspicion, there’s plenty of room for further adventures from the crime solving companions.

The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow is perfect for fans of Harriet the Spy, Wells & Wong and The Box of Delights.

This book was pretty good! I would recommend adding it to your reading list.

This book was gripping and a rip roaring read!