Day of the Starwind by Douglas Hill (Victor Gollancz, 1980) Book three of the Last Legionary quartet sees Keill Randor edge closer to the shadowy Warlord who masterminded his planet’s destruction. Hill has a knack for upping the stakes, pitting his protagonist against ever more serious threats. Clear, fast-moving middle-grade action SF.
The Mystery of the Missing Necklace by Enid Blyton (Methuen, 1947) Entertaining but something of a misstep. Fatty proves fallible, Goon shows himself to have brains, and the Five Find-Outers shadow and disrupt a police investigation rather than go about solving the mystery themselves. (Also, the gang members’ secret communications seem needlessly convoluted.)
The Disappearing TV Star by Emily Rodda [with Mary Forrest] (Scholastic, 1994); audiobook read by Rebecca Macauley (Bolinda, 2005) Not much of a mystery. Also, while the Teen Power kids prove fractious as ever, Richelle’s character is difficult to stomach in the first person. Her surprise revelation (which would have made sense from Nick’s POV) comes across as an authorial…
The Snoopy Festival by Charles M. Schulz (Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1974) A big collection of Snoopy-focussed strips—five weeklies or one colour Sunday per page across just shy of 200 pages. The colour strips are beautifully reproduced and the selection of dailies is good, albeit that a few ongoing storylines are left incomplete.
Hear the Wind Sing by Haruki Murakami (Kodansha International, 1979); trans. Ted Goossen; audiobook read by Kirby Heyborne (Random House Audio, 2015) The narrator looks back on when he was a 21-year-old student of little interest to anyone. Murakami, rather like Vonnegut, writes what may or may not be deadpan literary satire. Narrator Kirby Heyborne does his best to make…
The Mystery of the Spiteful Letters by Enid Blyton (Methuen, 1946) The Five Find-Outers hit their stride and Fatty, assured beyond his years, comes to the fore as their cheeky, disguise-wearing, outrageously daring leader. The mystery in this instance remains slight but the plot is cleverly structured around the children’s interactions with Goon.
Iznogoud and the Magic Computer by Goscinny; ill. Tabary (Cinebook, 2009) [from ‘Iznogoud et l’ordinateur magique’, 1970] Five pun-filled stories featuring the nefarious Iznogoud, oft-thwarted scourge of ancient Baghdad. Goscinny overdoes the wordplay and undercooks the characterisation while Tabary’s panels evoke a clutter, not a treasure trove, of detail. (Admittedly his camels and elephants make for comic haute cuisine.) …
Sinister Barrier by Eric Frank Russell (The World’s Work, 1943) Russell’s first novel evinces nothing of his later puckishness. Instead it is a hardboiled SF invasion yarn that reads well under its own steam but less so when the characters act as mouthpieces for Russell’s Fortean beliefs, which informed the chilling concept.
Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams (Heinemann, 1987) Rushed ending aside, this is a consummate piece of genre creation. Adams crafts a supernatural SF detective story with gorgeous (often subtle) pieces of interconnectedness, Doctor Who rehash and zany bits of faux-throwaway, all brought together by the late-appearing protagonist. Improbably brilliant.
The Mystery of the Disappearing Cat by Enid Blyton (Methuen, 1944) In this second book, Blyton still has the Five Find-Outers (and dog) as a fairly generic group of kids happening upon a mystery and solving it largely through happenstance. A spot of Goon-baiting aside, they are yet to come into their own.