Max Morel is a true Parisienne, lucky enough to live within sight of the Eiffel Tower, and the best pain au chocolat shop ever. But her life feels small; never has there been a girl more ready for grand adventure. Little does Max realise that she is one fateful phone call away from being swept aboard an intoxicating night train ride across Europe, one that will include international jewel thieves and undercover detectives. Hold onto your hats!
We loved Sylvia Bishop’s last literary offering, The Bookshop Girl. One of our 2017 favourites, the author’s quirky, exuberant style meant that we’ve kept a keen eye out for her next book. And it doesn’t disappoint. The unexpected phone call is summoning Max to the exotic destination of Istanbul, to care for her convalescent Great-Aunt Elodie.
Being only a rather small girl, Max is accompanied by a family acquaintance, Sister Marguerite, a somewhat eccentric nun. Her family believe that nothing untoward can happen to Max in the company of this devout lady in her billowing habit. Boy are they wrong.
We learn that the whole of Paris is in uproar over the audacious theft of the world famous Heartbreak Diamond. Police believe that the diamond is being smuggled into Istanbul and are monitoring all entry points into the city. Could it possibly be on Max’s train?
Enriched by vivid description of the colourful cities en route, the drama becomes positively high-octane as Max and Sister Marguerite draw up a list of suspicious passengers. This includes a man who has packed an unnecessary number of socks for his journey (clearly suspicious), an elderly bejewelled lady draped in furs, and a gentleman in a raincoat who insists on clutching his suitcase a little too tightly. All I’ll say is beware the character whose voice is ‘like shadows humming, like snails sharing secrets.’
The Secret of the Night Train by Sylvia Bishop is published by Scholastic, 304 pages.