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Book DetailsISBN: 9781925603705
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Book Review: Peacock Detectives by Carly Nugent - Reviewed by CloggieA (11 Sep 2019)
5 stars “Autumn by the river feels slippery, and almost-but-not-quite cold. It sometimes feels dark, too, because in autumn we put the clocks back, so when it’s five o’clock it’s really six o’clock, and there’s less daylight. It’s the reverse of daylight savings. It is daylight spendings.”
The Peacock Detectives is the first novel by prize-winning Australian author, Carly Nugent. When William Shakespeare and Virginia go missing, Mr and Mrs Hudson engage the services of eleven-going-on-twelve-year-old Cassie Andersen to find them. William Shakespeare and Virginia are ornamental peacocks and Cassie has a reputation for being able to find lost things. She notes down all her observations in her Notebook for Noticing, but the birds are proving difficult to track down.
Cassie enlists the help of her best friend Jonas, but is distracted from her investigation by things that are happening at home: Mum is forever busy cooking up strange dishes from her night course; older sister, Diana has gone vegetarian and is into Buddhist meditation; her Grandpa is mysteriously absent from church and tired all the time; and Dad is behaving a little strangely and seems to be filling the cupboards with little boxes.
Cassie thinks she and Jonas make a great team because she knows stories and he knows scientific facts, which he regularly shares: “Did you know vultures help prevent diseases from spreading?” and “Did you know Greece is one of the biggest producers of sponges?” and “Did you know if a shark stops swimming it will die?” (Sharks are Jonas’s favourite things).
Through it all, Cassie is keeping detailed notes, because Cassie is a writer, and this is a story she intends to tell. Dad is an English teacher, and encourages her to note events and dialogue, and to think about a theme. But what she notes down, especially about her family, often leaves her with more questions than answers.
This is a book some quirky characters and some very ordinary ones (a bit like life, really) who deal with the everyday challenges that make up life. Cassie is a truly likeable character with a genuinely good heart who manages to mature and gain some insight over the months it takes her to finally catch those elusive peacocks. Cassie’s eleven-year-old voice feels authentic: at times, childishly naïve, at times, incredibly perceptive.
Aimed at a reading age of 9+, this story covers themes of mental illness, adoption, marriage breakdown, terminal illness, bullying and friendship in a sensitive and age-appropriate manner. It is easy to see why this little book won the Readings Children’s Book Prize and was shortlisted for the Text Prize. The illustrations by Sophie Beer are a charming enhancement to this warm and heartfelt tale that need not be limited to children. This unbiased review is from an uncorrected proof copy provided by NetGalley and Text Publishing.
Carly Nugent lives in Bright in Victoria. Her short fiction has featured in numerous publications, including the Bellevue Literary Review and Award Winning Australian Writing. The Peacock Detectives is her first novel.
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