Jack of Spades by Sophie Masson
Eagle Books, 2017. ISBN 9780994528001
(Age: 13+) Recommended. Mystery. France. Historical fiction. Spy stories. Mystery, spies, hints of romance and adventure are linked together in this drama for teen readers. Sophie Masson has set this story in 1910 France and has introduced a young British heroine (Rosalind, or as she prefers, Linda), who is unwittingly seduced into a political mystery involving potential 'terrorists' keen on destroying the socio-political status quo. Linda's father, a renowned Shakespeare expert, has gone missing. Linda's impressive common sense and independent thinking, with her ability to read clues and interpret meaning is put to the test. Who can she trust, and is her own life in danger?
This book is written in a style reminiscent of early 20th century crime or spy novels. The opening chapter is perhaps a little 'clunky' as Masson attempts to give background detail in order to introduce Linda and the 1910 setting. But the action ramps up quickly and the suspense and dramatic urgency (with a small dose of humour en route) is interlaced into the spy scenarios. Without the sophistication of an adult spy novel, it will still appeal to young readers who will connect with the young, intelligent protagonist. It is suited to readers aged 13+, with some capacity for understanding political movements that might lead to terrorist action with murderous intent (eg Fenians, Nihilists), but who enjoy mystery and adventure. The 1910 setting adds appeal, simply because it is a reminder that the world used to have to function without mobile phones, internet and email and the rapid spread of information. A spy novel in this time was heavily reliant on mailed letters!