Vulpes Libris

A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.

Mondays are Murder by Tanya Landman

Several months ago I put out a call for book recommendations. More specifically, I was interested in books written by authors living in either Devon, Cornwall or Somerset, or books set in these places. My fellow Bookfox, Hilary, mentioned Tanya Landman as an author based in North Devon and I eagerly rushed off to my favourite online retailer to purchase Tanya Landman’s Mondays Are Murder (along with about eight other books, of course). A huge parcel of books arrived the next day and I had my customary read of the first two pages of each of them and quickly decided that Mondays Are Murder would be where I started, on the grounds that it was shortest and looked as if it would prove the most exciting.

Eleven-year-old Poppy Fields is packed off for a week’s activity holiday on a remote Scottish island. Poppy isn’t particularly thrilled to be spending part of her school break in this way, but the offer of a free place for Poppy on the activity course proves too tempting for Poppy’s mother to refuse. Poppy is promptly picked up in a minibus by a shady character called Bruce Dundee, who bears terrible scars to his face. There are other children in the minibus who seem similarly reluctant to embark on a great outdoors adventure but Poppy only bonds with one of them, a fabulously nerdy soul called Graham who complains at every opportunity and enjoys quoting the death statistics for every planned activity. Unfortunately, Graham’s suspicion that outdoor pursuits are incredibly dangerous, and sometimes deadly, turns out to be true. Deadly, not for the children themselves, but for the instructors who run the activity centre. One by one these adults are picked off in mysterious ‘accidents’. Cut off from the mainland by poor weather conditions, the children are stuck on a bleak island with the adults dying around them. Which sounds, at least to me, like a delightfully exciting premise for a children’s book. Sadly, the whole thing felt just a bit too comfortable and cosy to constitute truly edge-of-your-seat reading. One instructor dies during one activity, then another instructor dies the next day in another activity and so on, and this led to an inevitability that might have been scarily exciting but which here felt a bit plodding and predictable. Perhaps this was because Poppy herself didn’t have much emotionally invested in the welfare of the victims, or because for most of the book she didn’t seem personally threatened by any of the dastardly goings-on of the island. The writing is fast-paced but I think it suffers from being too fast-paced. Events aren’t particularly fleshed out, which meant that for this reader at least, the book didn’t come to life. That strange but vital quality of a book ‘ringing true’ was absent for me here, and I just couldn’t quite believe or ‘get into’ the storyline. Which was a shame, especially as the book’s plot has such potential.

The writing felt a little rushed and the peripheral characters were so under-written as to be almost invisible. Apart from Poppy, Graham and Bruce, I couldn’t really get a sense of anyone. In terms of pace, there weren’t enough pauses for any emotional fallout to develop and Poppy herself often seemed untouched by the dramatic events occurring around her. What I wanted to feel was some emotional repercussions from so much death. Also, in order to fully engage with the storyline, I needed Poppy to be more at the centre of things, for her actions to contribute to the plot in some way, rather than her just being an (albeit ‘alarmed’) observer.

Perhaps this was just the wrong book for me. It is very likely that I am too old and too jaded to appreciate the light touch of this writing and I am sure that there are readers out there who would enjoy this novel. For me, however, it was ultimately a disappointing read as the storytelling was too skinny for my palate – it would appear I prefer my children’s fiction to be richer, denser concoctions. Moreover, I couldn’t overcome my irritation that Mondays Are Murder could and should have been so much better.

To end on a note of positivity, I did enjoy the twist at the end of the book and the ‘reveal’ of the murderer was nicely handled. So despite my reservations, I might just read the next book in the series to discover if any of the potential of the first book has been realised in the second.

Lisa is presently carrying a sleeveful of tissues, a weight of scandalous secrets, a flu virus, an unborn child, a paint roller and a Lemsip. To discover more about Lisa and her mule-like qualities, click here.

Walker Books,ISBN-13: 978-1406314601, 160 pages, £4.99.

6 comments on “Mondays are Murder by Tanya Landman

  1. annebrooke
    January 30, 2010

    Sounds like it could have been so much more, indeed! Though perhaps not quite one for that unborn child of yours – yet!!!




  2. Nikki
    January 30, 2010

    Oh I remember reading that request and thinking “Oooo, Patrick Gale,” because yes, I am a total Gale JUNKIE. He lives in Cornwall and most of his recent work is set there. I’d recommend A Sweet Obscurity for a start because it’s between London and Cornwall and it’s vivid and alive – one of my comfort reads.

    When it comes to mystery/murder stories there’s one thing I’ve got to ask – could you guess whodunit from the first page? The premise does sound scary because children need adults and for all their independence and I think at the end of a summer’s day, when you’ve been up trees and in mud holes, you want the security of coming home to a responsible adult who puts beans on toast on the table. Occasionally I still feel like that myself! So that sense of threat might be pretty vivid for me. How involved is Poppy? I mean, does she get involved in finding the murderer, channelling her inner Famous Five?

  3. Lisa
    January 30, 2010

    I think you could be right about that, Anne. Might have to start the little ‘un on The Very Hungry Caterpillar first 😀

    Nikki, I’ve scheduled in a review of A Sweet Obscurity for our Valentine’s Week! It was one of the other books I bought alongside this one. I haven’t finished it yet but I’m very impressed so far.

    Poppy isn’t really involved in detecting the murderer in the same way as say The Famous Five or Nancy Drew tend to be. She thinks about who the murderer could be, but she’s more an observer than a particularly active participant in the hunt. I didn’t guess whodunit from the first page, so it was good in that respect, but Poppy and Graham did seem a little dense towards the end of the book, when certain things were becoming very clear (or should have been.) Don’t want to give away any spoilers, mind you!

    Thanks for the comments, both. Lx

  4. Hilary
    January 30, 2010

    Lisa, I’m disappointed that your foray into West country writers has started with something that is a little limp. I agree that the premise sounds enticing and exciting! It’s a shame it didn’t quite deliver.

    I wonder if the author fell between two stools – the Famous Five / Nancy Drew format has such a strong whiff of ‘Don’t try this at home, children’. I wonder if she tried so hard to avoid one source of criticism, only to fall into another.

  5. Jackie
    January 30, 2010

    This book sounded like it had a lot of potential, it’s disappointing that it didn’t live up to it.Graham, especially, sounded like a hoot. Still, it sounds like it might be a non-scary introduction to mysteries for a child, who might not notice the lack of depth.

  6. Debbie Steever
    January 30, 2010

    If you like mysterys take a look at my resently published book. “Family Secrets or Lies” it is based on a murder that took place in my small hometown community. My secind book Dead at 30 will be out sometime this Spring.
    Debbie Steever

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This entry was posted on January 30, 2010 by in Entries by Lisa, Fiction: children's, Westcountry books & authors and tagged , .



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