Justice Jones, the daughter of a barrister, is sent to a boarding school after her mother dies. She arrives with a journal and a detective eye keen to solve a mystery and is not disappointed. The first line of the book sets the tone from the off, ‘As soon as she saw the school, Justice Jones knew that it had the potential for murder.’
If you like a mystery story with a good detective character, then you’ll love this book. It has all the right ingredients: strong detective character; a boarding school set in a big old house with turrets locked behind big wrought iron gates in an isolated place and some instantly suspicious characters. And there has already been a recent death of a chambermaid. What makes this book different, new and refreshing is it is brought right up into the present day as the author challenges stereotypes and does this naturally by weaving these in as asides throughout the story through the eyes of Justice Jones, the sleuth. Why do we assume Nora is the clever one just because she wears glasses? Why do we presume Rose is the leader and assured to become head girl just because she has long blond hair like the current head girl? Is the headmistress making herself superior by having her office at the top of a turret? These are just some examples, and I think any discussion of this book could explore this theme with children, which could lead to some productive talk.
This book is perfect for the school library as it will appeal to many readers who enjoy a murder mystery series with a great detective as the main character. What stands out for me with this book is the pace of events as they unfold: they are exactly as they should be, with enough cliff-hanger moments to make this book a compelling page-turner that you can’t put down. You are left guessing until the very end. The regular journal updates by Justice of key suspects and investigation details is also a good device. This book is the first in what I hopefully predict will be the first in a series.
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