The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow by Katherine Woodfine

One of the best things about being an author is that reading is part of my job. I have to read all the latest MG titles, and the classics and clever mysteries. Gotta keep up with the industry. It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it.

I bought Katherine Woodfine’s The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow while I was researching MG mysteries. I loved the title, but the cover! The cover is glorious (illustrated by Júlia Sardà). I had to have it.

Being busy editing and writing I didn’t get around to reading it right away. So, when I found out Ms Woodfine had given my publisher an amazing cover quote for Alice Jones: The Impossible Clue I bumped The Clockwork Sparrow to the top of my TBR list and dove in.*


You are cordially invited to attend the Grand Opening of Sinclair’s department store!

Enter a world of bonbons, hats, perfumes and MYSTERIES around every corner. WONDER at the daring theft of the priceless CLOCKWORK SPARROW! TREMBLE as the most DASTARDLY criminals in London enact their wicked plans! GASP as our bold heroines, Miss Sophie Taylor and Miss Lilian Rose, CRACK CODES, DEVOUR ICED BUNS and vow to bring the villains to justice…

The Clockwork Sparrow is a delicious chocolate box of a book. Not a plain bar or a bag of mixed pieces, but a glorious assortment box with gold foil and velvet lining and one of those little menus that describe each beautifully decorated chocolate in mouth-watering detail.

Set in the late 1800s around the opening of the impossibly grand department store, Sinclair’s, The Clockwork Sparrow follows the story of Sophie the hat girl and her friends as they try to discover the secret behind who stole Mr Sinclair’s priceless Clockwork Sparrow from the opening night display.

It’s written in third person and switches between the main characters’ points of view. Usually I’m not a fan of this style, but Woodfine has really used it to her advantage, each character is well-rounded and interesting AND lets us see a different side of Sinclair’s. I loved being shown the stables and storage rooms as much as the lavish shop floors.

I read the book in two sittings, and looked up to tell my husband several times that I wished I had written it. That’s the problem with reading as a writer. So much book envy. But, I guess I wouldn’t have gotten such pure enjoyment if I’d had to write it myself. And now I get to look forward to reading the sequel, The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth, to come out in 2016, without doing any work at all!

*Since Ms Woodfine gave me a cover quote, I can’t say this review is 100% impartial. But I did buy this book before the quote and, as always, if I hadn’t enjoyed it I wouldn’t have reviewed it.

Only one month until Alice Jones: The Impossible Clue

Happy 2016!

My latest book, Alice Jones: The Impossible Clue is coming out next month! It’s the first in a series of detective stories featuring Alice Jones, a street-savy kid with a mathematical mind. Here are five of my favorite detectives, all of whom have helped inspire Alice.

  1. Nancy Drew-The original girl detective. Nancy Drew books started my life-long love of mysteries and reading in general. I loved Nancy, she was smart and resourceful and, though she had a lawyer for a dad, always solved her cases on her own.
  2. Hercule Poirot-Agatha Christie’s first detective. As a child, I think Poirot appealed to me because he wasn’t strong or daring or even particularly brave. He was clever, and he used his ‘little grey cells’ to get the better of the bad guys.
  3. Encyclopedia Brown-Another brain-based sleuth, Encyclopedia Brown books gave me my first taste of being the detective myself. Each short story had its solution at the end of the book. I think I got one right, once. I loved Sally (Encyclopedia’s partner, the strongest girl in the 5th grade) and Bugs Meany, their nemesis.
  4. Lord Peter Wimsey-The gentleman detective, Wimsey often used people’s assumptions that he was an aristocratic fool to his advantage. Alice uses the fact that she’s only 12 in a similar way.
  5. Philip Marlowe-A private eye rather than a detective, trying to do the right thing in a wrong world. I loved his bruised morality and how he tried to do the right thing, even when the choice was murky and hard.

Alice Jones: The Impossible Clue will be released 4 February, but you can read the first chapter or pre-order (UK/US) a copy now.