Meet the new fabulous, fictional detective duo, Nik and Norva, who join Wells & Wong, Taylor & Rose and Wolfe & Lamb on the roster of whip-smart MG sleuths. This is a really fresh take on the genre, with sisters Anika “Nik” and Norva Alexander living with their single-parent father, Joe, on the 22nd floor of a South-East London tower block. They are a complementary team. Nik is 11 years-old; factual, precise, methodical, the story is narrated in her voice. Norva is 13 years-old; imaginative, emotional, creative. They describe their method as “gut and nut” and in turn are described by their cool, music-mad, neighbour George as “NSquared” which Nik loves because it’s “mathematical and logical”!
On the hottest day of the summer the girls know that something is wrong when antique-dealing resident Hugo Knightley-Webb, an absolute stickler for punctuality fails to show up for the Art Class he runs for residents of the estate in the community hub. Following their noses leads them to the terrible discovery of his corpse in the rubbish skip at the bottom of their tower block. From this moment, Nik and Norva are on the case, using their tech-savvy skills and natural curiosity to track down his killer. The plot unfurls as we are introduced to various residents of The Tri: Charity Jane – fundraiser in chief, old but surprisingly strong Mrs Kowalski, Serena the “consciously-uncoupled” sister of the victim, Mark Walker – described by Nik as young, dull and broke, who assists Joe in his caretaking duties and former resident Katie Smythe, now a police officer working on the case. Unfortunately, the mounting evidence is pointing to Joe; can Nik and Norva uncover the motive and perpetrator to clear their father’s name?
The final chapters see the girls racing against time to identify the real murderer, ending with a perfect Agatha Christie-style denouement. Once I had caught my breath I was able to reflect on what I had enjoyed about the book.The description of the run-down, underfunded estate “The Tri” baking and festering with unpleasant smells in the hot July heat was so vivid that I was transported back to my 20s living in the capital. I loved the contemporary setting, the girls’ smart use of technology and social media and their authentic vocabulary. The author Sharna Jackson has cleverly told the story through an 11-year-old narrator, who thinks she is absolutely precise in her reporting, but misses some subtleties of communication. Therefore she is a slightly unreliable witness, leading to natural red-herrings for the MG audience. The short, snappy sentences and dialogue leap from the page, and the combination of short chapters peppered with charts and updated telephone notes will be appealing to reluctant readers.
I know that the publishers, Knights Of have a mission to issue books which represent everyone in our population and this book is a great example of that intention. I recommend this story for anyone age 10+ who enjoys a good “whodunnit”!