One of the reasons I so enjoyed Lauren St John’s first Laura Marlin mystery “Dead Man’s Cove” was because of its Cornish coastal setting which gave it a nostalgic glow of childhood holidays and the type of mystery novels we used to read when young, even whilst it was dealing with modern crime and modern characters. Readers obviously agreed with this as it was awarded the Blue Peter Book Of The Year Award and the Favourite Story Award in 2011. So it was a brave move on the part of the author to take Laura out of this setting and locate the second novel of the series in the Caribbean, leading to the climax on the volcanic island of Montserrat.
When I picked this book up I wasn’t sure how St John with her newly established cast of extremely likeable characters would engineer Laura’s relocation but it is done through a raffle prize which sees Laura, her uncle, her friend Tariq and Skye the three-legged husky on board the Ocean Empress heading for a holiday of a lifetime. It’s not long before things start going wrong and once again it’ s a serious modern crime at the centre. The Montserrat location gives St. John a chance to give the reader a bit of volcanic explanation, making this book a good literary choice to run alongside a school project on volcanoes. Also, the whole issue of marine conservation comes up through Uncle Calvin’s work and the author provides information about the scarcity and ill-treatment of some species which I was not aware of. Maybe my head has been stuck in the (Caribbean?) sand but I did not realise how bad things have got for tuna fish and Lauren St. John in her Facts section at the back recommends a boycott, nor did I know that some rock salmon bought in UK fish and chip shops is actually endangered shark. I know that some people are wary of stark messages to children dressed up in fiction but there’s no doubt that were I an intelligent 11 year old lapping up this tale that I would have taken the author’s advice, so if you are a fish eating family you might wish to be prepared for this beforehand. If, however, you want to spread the word this novel will do that and St. John promotes the Born Free Foundation and Kid’s Club.
For me, this novel is slightly more cartoony than its predecessor and although I enjoyed it very much for me “Dead Man’s Cove” was a stronger, more rounded work. There are important issues raised here which enhance rather than get in the way of the story. I can see from the next title in the series (“Kentucky Thriller”) that a return to St. Ives is not imminent and I hope St. John manages this balance between education and entertainment.
“Kidnap In The Caribbean” was published by Orion in 2011