Book Review: “The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth” by Katherine Woodfine

February 16, 2016

Published by Egmont

Accio Book!

Return to the delightful world of the Sinclair Department store for the fantastic second book from Katherine Woodfine, The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth. With gangsters infiltrating Chinatown, Debutantes embroiled in dastardly marriage schemes, and one cursed gem worth more than a quick pinch, Jewelled Moth ups the ante and adds a lovely array of new characters to join our friends Sophie and Lil in the adventure to beat the Baron. Sparkling, fun, and a jolly good yarn.

THE HONOUR OF YOUR COMPANY IS REQUESTED AT LORD BEAUCASTLE’S FANCY DRESS BALL.

Wonder at the puzzling disappearance of the Jewelled Moth! Marvel as our heroines, Sophie and Lil, don cunning disguises, mingle in high society and munch many cucumber sandwiches to solve this curious case! Applaud their bravery as they follow a trail of terrible secrets that leads straight to London’s most dangerous criminal mastermind, and could put their own lives at risk . . . It will be the most thrilling event of the season!

We open with a peep into the underbelly of the East End as it is besieged by the vicious Baron’s boys – but not before meeting young Mei Ling, of half Chinese, half British-Caucasian decent. Mei grew up with the stories her grandfather told her of the mysterious Moonbeam Diamond. Thus begins a tale of invading Englishmen, cursed thieves, and lost family fortune. Woodfine gives just enough away to let you pick up the clues as you go along, but she always keeps a few cards back before playing her hand. Mei was a charming addition to the cast, and I loved her family and a glimpse at the history of Chinatown, perhaps a lesser-known element of London history. Her bravado and love of her grandfather’s heritage makes her the perfect guide through this hidden world. And a scamper across the rooftops does for Chinatown what Lyra did for Oxford.

Back to the High Society of Sinclairs and we meet up once again with Sophie. This time she encounters a group of Debutantes, just out for their debut season on the London scene. Their mission is to find the perfect match to secure a good reputation and family fortune. On the surface the girls are much more interested in the latest fashions and following ballroom gossip than anything else. However, they have secrets that might disrupt everything, not least Sophie’s day working at the department store. As we are given snippets of the etiquette rulebook, we learn that sometimes rules must be broken for justice to be served.

The plot is propelled along when one of the Debs asks Sophie and Lil for their help in locating a missing jewel, a gift from a very important bachelor and Lord. This gives actress Lil (who is larger than life in more ways than one!) the perfect chance to go undercover. I loved the way Woodfine uses the setting of the department store to assist the girls in solving their case, with costumes at the ready and the helping hands of shop boys Joe and Billy. The different locations and points of view weave together effortlessly and the effect is effervescent and joyful with delightful contrasts of location, voice, and experience.

As with Book 1, The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow, Jewelled Moth is most wonderful in its celebration of friendships and team effort. Sophie might be the brains behind the operation, but it’s in the way she interacts with bolshy and outspoken Lil, meticulous Billy, quick-witted Joe, and brave Mei that the story reaches its gripping conclusion. Throw in the back chat and Austenesque gossip and the glamour of the Debs, and the story is full of brilliant characters sparking off one another. The strength of their connection is endearing and I dare you not to end up with multiple favorite characters.

The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth is a worthy successor to Book 1 — I was utterly gripped by the rip-roaring, nail-biting last chapters. If you’re a fan of Downton Abbey, Famous Five, and Agatha Christie, this is the book for you. Glamorous, rich, and full of suspense, it was a jolly grand adventure, from the first page to the last.

rating5