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Gracie Fairshaw and the Mysterious Guest by Susan Brownrigg - Review

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

A few weeks ago I got an email from one of the people at UCLAN Publishing, who are the people behind Northern YA Lit Fest. As the festival wasn't able to happen this year, UCLAN decided to let attendees read a couple of their books on Netgalley. They're very generous at the festival in giving away a couple of proofs per person, so they thought this was a good way to do that in the current situation. I liked the sound of this middle grade book, so downloaded it. And I was right to, it's a cute book!

It's set in Blackpool in the mid 1930s, right about the time when the Illuminations are switched on. Gracie and her brother George and their Ma have just moved to Blackpool, from elsewhere in Lancashire, in order to be the new owners of The Majestic hotel. It's somewhere that their mother spent a lot of time as a kid and she's thrilled to be the new landlady.

They've only just arrived when they discover that two of the guests aren't who they say they are. A couple of things go missing, and then Ma disappears! Gracie and George are obviously eager to find her, along with the help of the maid, Phyllis. What happens next are capers around Blackpool as they try to uncover what has happened to Ma. They meet two new friends, Violet and Tom, who help them too.

I thought that the mystery was quite cute and made sense. I liked Gracie. She was born without her left arm below the elbow, and she suffers from people looking at her oddly and wanting to know what happened to her. She's fourteen, meaning she's on the end of middle grade, and she's just left school and is heading to work. But maybe because of the time period, she skews a bit younger. I did like her though. George is a typical annoying younger brother; I thought he was a good character. I liked Violet and Tom and was glad they became friends. I loved Phyllis, too! She was a good older 'mentor' character without being too adult about things.

I loved the setting of Blackpool. I've only been a couple of times but could perfectly imagine the Pleasure Beach, the Tower, and the seaside rides. I liked the northern feel to the book and the lovely seaside bits like when they stop for chips at one point.

I thought the book was a strong debut, but not perfect in its execution. I would definitely recommend it as a middle grade book, though. I'm giving it 3.5 out of five.

Gracie Fairshaw and the Mysterious Guest will be published on 2nd July 2020 by UCLan Publishing. I was given a free electronic copy of this book in return for an honest review, but was not otherwise compensated for this post. All thoughts and opinions remain my own.

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