Childrens - Shastrix Books


Recently reviewed

The Mystery of the Laughing Shadow

The Mystery of the Laughing Shadow

23rd September 2017

The twelfth adventure of the Three Investigators, and the second by William Arden, finds the trip well into their stride and tells a tale in what I remember as the classic style of the series. When two of the boys accidentally hear a call for help and intercept a coded message, they're drawn into a complex and fascinating investigation.

While it must be said that some of the narrative hasn't aged well and some of the choice of language would be unlikely to be published today, the mystery itself is strong, the peril real, and the adventure interesting.

I felt is was a good quick read and am happy I decided to revisit the series.

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Buy book: UK
The Disappearing Floor

The Disappearing Floor

, &

28th May 2017

The nineteenth original Hardy Boys book (or at least my UK edition of the 1964 re-write) sees the brothers investigating a series of jewellery thefts, as well as a strange house which appears to be haunted, and not just one but several instances of floors that disappear.

The narrative is the usual, simplistic but engaging - perhaps more so than some of its predecessors, as I read though in just a couple of sittings (maybe just over an hour in total). However the plot is messy - in places not making much sense, and feeling more like a string of coincidences than an actual investigation.

I suspect that this book was heavily butchered in the re-writing process, as its focus is one on technology I think the original plot has been radically ‘updated’ and in the process some of the sense has been lost, leading to a slightly unsatisfying story that doesn’t hold up to too much thinking about.

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The Mystery of Tally-Ho Cottage

The Mystery of Tally-Ho Cottage

4th May 2017

The eleventh mystery about the Five Find-Outers is probably one of the best and most representative of the series.

The language, of course, is incredibly dated, and an attempt to read aloud the opening pages led to much hilarity, but reading silently that can easily be mentally pushed aside and the beauty of the simple mystery story can show through.

This is overall an excellent story, and a great introduction to the world of mystery fiction, which I've enjoyed ever since first reading this story years ago.

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Buy book: UK
Jennings of Course

Jennings of Course

19th August 2016

The fourteenth Jennings novels sees us join the pupils at Linbury Court as their lost property cupboard is overflowing, the school Christmas concert approaches, and the school cook has left.

I can see this being a very funny story to a younger reader, but as an adult everything seemed a little bit too predictable and cringeworthy to actually make me laugh.

Don't get me wrong - I enjoyed another visit to the world of Jennings and to a story that I barely remembered from my younger self's readings - but it's probably not one of the best books in the series.

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Buy book: UK
The Twisted Claw

The Twisted Claw

, &

6th July 2016

The eighteenth story in the original Hardy Boys series (noting that my copy is of the 1960s re-write) surprised me by surpassing the quality of the immediately previous adventures by being an excellent story and a good mystery that I really enjoyed.

There are a number of tropes that recur from earlier stories, but something about this story, which kicks off with the boys being asked to keep an eye on a suspicious ship, comes together into a story which flows at a good speed, survives the test of time without being offensive or silly, and makes for a mystery that seems completely plausible.

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Buy book: UK
The Falls

The Falls

26th May 2016

Book twelve, and somehow Rankin manages to keep Tennis feeling fresh, moving on his personal storyline while providing new and intriguing mysteries that keep getting better and better.

This is the tale of a missing student whose parents have sufficient status too call in the full weight of the Lothian and Borders Police in to hunt her down. As usual, Tennis takes the investigation in his own direction and finds much deeper and more disquieting things to look into.

I think my favourite thing about these books is the way that they are never really about the plot. It's like the mystery itself it's just a framing device to get us back into the lives of the characters and learn what they are up to. And the characters' stories are so rich and fascinating, especially as we are branching out and being aligned with more of them as their relationships shuffle around.

Actually really really good. One of the best in the series and certainly a story I would recommend.

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Buy book: UK
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

25th March 2016

The time has come in my latest Harry Potter re-read to revisit my favourite of the series (and I know that's an unpopular opinion). I started this read through trying to be in sync with Pottermore releasing bonus material for each book, but since I read Goblet of Fire last the format of the website has completely changed and so I just took the opportunity to read the story again and prepare myself mentally for the appearance of a new story (in script and stage form) this summer.

Why do I like this book over the others? For many reasons. This is a tale of the Harry at a key age - he's still a child, but now he is becoming an adult. It's the point at which he turns from being a child drawn into unusual situations into a young man taking control of his life and the direction it takes. He becomes stronger and starts forming new relationships - and the secondary cast start to become more prominent. Yet it remains a story about school life, before the story is absorbed into the epic events of the last two books of Harry's story, and so still has that touch of the original structure.

One of the criticisms that this book often draws is about Harry's moodiness and how he's become a stroppy teen. I don't see this as anything as a mis-reading of the story, instead (and I'll avoid spoilers) stemming from an important plot point that is integral to not only the story of this novel but also the rest of the series.

On this reading, I really enjoyed a couple of moments which I hadn't noticed before, both early on, that seem like throwaway comments, but which with the knowledge I now have from later turn into interesting hints of foreshadowing. It's also the point in the series from which I feel slightly less familiar with the text (having naturally read the earlier books more frequently - at least once each time a new on was published) and so I enjoyed rediscovering some of the story.

Still my favourite of the books, and one that I am sure I will revisit again and again and again.

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Buy book: UK

Other reviewed books

The Mystery of the Talking Skull
The General
The Mystery of the Moaning Cave
The Mystery of the Strange Bundle
The Sleepwalker
The Mystery of the Screaming Clock
The Mystery of the Vanished Prince
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Mad Dogs
The Tower Treasure
The Mystery of the Silver Spider
The Mystery of the Invisible Thief
The Fall
Don't Touch Anything
The Mystery of the Fiery Eye
Crocodile Tears
Man vs Beast
The Mystery of the Pantomime Cat
The Secret of Skeleton Island
The Wide Window
Divine Madness
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
The Mystery of the Hidden House
The Accused
The Mystery of the Vanishing Treasure
The Reptile Room
Ark Angel
The Rithmatist
The Mystery of the Missing Necklace
The Field Guide
Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief
The Mystery of the Green Ghost
Coots in the North and other stories
The Killing
The Abduction
The Mystery of the Spiteful Letters
The Mystery of the Whispering Mummy
Eagle Strike
The Mystery of the Secret Room
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Maximum Security
Alcatraz Versus the Knights of Crystallia
Alcatraz Versus the Scrivener's Bones
Great Northern?
The Mystery of the Stuttering Parrot
Skeleton Key
The Mystery of the Disappearing Cat
Class A
The Secret of Terror Castle
The Picts and the Martyrs
The Assassination Game
Point Blanc
The Recruit
The World of Poo
The Mystery of the Burnt Cottage
Missee Lee
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
Just Like Jennings
Catching Fire
The Big Six
The Trouble with Jennings
The Hunger Games
Secret Water
The Bad Beginning
We Didn't Mean to Go to Sea
Pigeon Post
The Song of the Quarkbeast
Coot Club
Winter Holiday
Jennings as Usual
Peter Duck
Take Jennings for Instance
Thanks to Jennings
Swallows and Amazons
Our Friend Jennings
The Last Dragonslayer
According to Jennings
Jennings' Diary
Jennings and Darbishire
Jennings' Little Hut
Jennings Follows a Clue
Jennings Goes to School
Artemis Fowl

Unreviewed books

A Killing in the Market
Alcatraz Versus the Shattered Lens
An Ear for Danger
Beyond the Law
Biggles - Flying Detective
Biggles and the Black Peril
Biggles and the Secret Mission
Biggles Defends the Desert
Biggles Defies the Swastika
Biggles Delivers the Goods
Biggles Fails to Return
Biggles Flies East
Biggles Flies West
Biggles Goes to War
Biggles in France
Biggles in the Orient
Biggles Learns to Fly
Blood Fever
Blood Relations
Brigands M.C.
Brother Against Brother
By Royal Command
Castle Fear
Choke Hold
Cold Sweat
Countdown to Terror
Crime in the Kennel
Crusade of the Flaming Sword
Cult of Crime
Dangerous Games
Dead on Target
Deep Trouble
Diplomatic Deceit
Dirty Deeds
Disaster for Hire
Double or Die
Edge of Destruction
Endangered Species
Especially Jennings
Evil Incorporated
Fatal Error
Final Cut
Final Gambit
Five Children and It
Flesh and Blood
Flight into Danger
Foul Play
Foul Play
Fright Wave
Fun for the Secret Seven
Funny Business
Go Ahead, Secret Seven
Good Old Secret Seven
Good Work, Secret Seven
Grave Danger
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
High-Speed Showdown
Hollywood Horror
Hostages of Hate
Hot Wheels
Hurricane Gold
James and the Giant Peach
Jennings Again
Jennings at Large
Jennings in Particular
Jennings Unlimited
Lethal Cargo
Long Shot
Look Out Secret Seven
Mariel of Redwall
Martial Law
Martin the Warrior
Maximum Challenge
Murder at the Mall
Murder to Go
Night of the Werewolf
No Mercy
Open Season
Outcast of Redwall
Pearls of Lutra
Perfect Getaway
Power Play
Programme for Destruction
Puzzle for the Secret Seven
Reel Trouble
Rigged for Revenge
Rock 'n' Revenge
Rough Stuff
Scene of the Crime
Secret Seven Adventure
Secret Seven Fireworks
Secret Seven Mystery
Secret Seven on the Trail
Secret Seven Win Through
See No Evil
Seven Strange and Ghostly Tales
Shock for the Secret Seven
Sidetracked to Danger
Sky Sabotage
Slam Dunk Sabotage
Speaking of Jennings
Still William
Swallows and Amazons for Ever!
Terror on Track
The Alaskan Adventure
The Apeman's Secret
The Bellmaker
The Blackwing Puzzle
The Borgia Dagger
The Camels are Coming
The Clue in the Embers
The Clue of the Broken Blade
The Cold Cash Caper
The Crowning Terror
The Crystal Prison
The Dead Season
The Final Reckoning
The Firebird Rocket
The Genius Thieves
The Ghost at Skeleton Rock
The Hooded Hawk Mystery
The Hypersonic Secret
The Jennings Report
The Jungle Pyramid
The Last Laugh
The Last Leap
The Lazarus Plot
The Long Patrol
The Masked Monkey
The Midnight Folk
The Mummy Case
The Mystery at Devil's Paw
The Mystery of Banshee Towers
The Mystery of Death Trap Mine
The Mystery of Holly Lane
The Mystery of Monster Mountain
The Mystery of Smugglers Cove
The Mystery of the Chinese Junk
The Mystery of the Coughing Dragon
The Mystery of the Cranky Collector
The Mystery of the Dead Man's Riddle
The Mystery of the Desert Giant
The Mystery of the Flaming Footprints
The Mystery of the Headless Horse
The Mystery of the Invisible Dog
The Mystery of the Kidnapped Whale
The Mystery of the Magic Circle
The Mystery of the Missing Man
The Mystery of the Missing Mermaid
The Mystery of the Nervous Lion
The Mystery of the Purple Pirate
The Mystery of the Rogues' Reunion
The Mystery of the Samurai Sword
The Mystery of the Scar-Faced Beggar
The Mystery of the Shrinking House
The Mystery of the Silver Star
The Mystery of the Singing Serpent
The Mystery of the Sinister Scarecrow
The Mystery of the Smashing Glass
The Mystery of the Strange Messages
The Mystery of the Trail of Terror
The Mystery of the Two-Toed Pigeon
The Mystery of the Wandering Cave Man
The Number File
The Oaken Throne
The Outlaw's Silver
The Pentagon Spy
The Phoenix Equation
The Search for the Snow Leopard
The Secret Agent on Flight 101
The Secret of Phantom Lake
The Secret of the Crooked Cat
The Secret of the Haunted Mirror
The Secret of Wildcat Swamp
The Secret Seven
The Seven and the Lion Hunt
The Seven and the Magician
The Seven and the UFOs
The Seven Strike Gold
The Seven to the Rescue
The Short-Wave Mystery
The Sky Blue Frame
The Stone Idol
The Vanishing Thieves
The Viking Symbol Mystery
The Wailing Siren Mystery
The Yellow Feather Mystery
Thick as Thieves
Three Cheers, Secret Seven
Trust Jennings
Typically Jennings
Uncivil War
Web of Horror
Well Done, Secret Seven
Without a Trace
Witness to Murder

Top books

  1. Swallows and Amazons
  2. Pigeon Post
  3. The Last Dragonslayer
  4. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
  5. The Rithmatist
  6. Class A
  7. Divine Madness