This is a lovely series for younger readers to ease into mystery books with additional value from logic and learning sprinkled in without being patronising or boring.
Then Longstaff adds a very interesting factor by introducing the whimsical magic of avatar generating magical libraries where there is supposed to be a keeper at all times, but Tally missed her calling until the events of Book 1: A Sticky Situation.
This series is very close to Littlefae’s heart, after being assured it wasn’t a scary book Littlefae fell hard for Tally’s stories and they have been reread several times.
Tallulah was found aged two by a cliffside mumbling ‘Ma’ and grasping a piece of torn lace and has spent the last 9 years of her life in domestic drudgery as a scullery maid in the wonderful Mollett Manor.
Surrounded with tapestries, ballrooms, secret passages and quite bonkers inhabitants ranging from the kindly but lacking common sense brother and sister Lord and Lady to the beastly duo of Butler and Housekeeper Mr Bood and Mrs Sneed who treat Tally as their own little Cinderella bossing her about to the point that Tally feels like she is the only staff that does anything round the Manor including teaching herself to read and advanced puzzle logic and codebreaking .
In the first novel A Sticky Situation,Tally finds a secret that she is the next guardian of the Secret Library, and enchanting place with magicked books with the hope and skills can change her circumstances. And solve a crime in each book to boot.
In Thief in the Night, Tally is wrestling with the revelation from Scent of Danger (Book 2), but is scared to say anything because it could change everything. At the same time something is terrorising Lady Mollett, activating her anxiety and she contacts a medium to help clear the home of spirits- and of course nothing seems to be getting any better.
Both Littlefae and I love this series, they are calmly and quietly intelligent in how they include and educate the reader about how to break codes, the behaviours and activities of different creatures and related scientific knowledge alongside the plot.
The series uses a love of reading, the desire to challenge oneself and an enjoyment of logic based puzzles as if these are everyday natural behaviours which is so encouraging.
The illustrations by James Brown (of whom we adore his Jingle Spells picture books too!!) punctuate and annotate the pages with a lovely warmth and contribute to the text with clues and communicate added personality traits especially of the grown ups.
Tally at first fits the classic Cinderella trope, loved child who loses her mum and becomes trapped in domestic servitude, but isn’t resentful or bitter.
Tally is a great role model, erudite and resilient and hungry to think and learn. There’s a dash of mathematician Katherine Johnson, a sprinkle of Jessica Fletcher (sans typewriter) and a smidgeon of Rachel Weitz’s librarian in the Mummy series which sounds a rather peculiar pitch but by golly it works well.
This book however is gearing us up for the finale as it is clear how Tally is changing with the first hints that she may soon be outgrowing the Library whether she is ready to or not. Growth and understanding in both Tally and the narrative reveals that situations are more complex than the surface suggests with Lady Beatrice’s backstory explaining why she is so skittish and afraid and maybe even a tad of sympathy towards Mrs Sneed.
We thoroughly recommend starting with The Trapdoor Mysteries: A Sticky Situation and you can be inspired by Tally too!
This latest book has made Littlefae very happy for several plot based reasons and knowing there was one more story has made her overjoyed so we look forward to June to complete Tally’s tale.
The Trapdoor Mysteries: Thief in the Night by Abie Longstaff and illustrated by James Brown is published by Orion Childrens Books and available online and from bookshops.