I have been on holiday, holed up in a barn conversion in North Wales, eating buns, sitting in front of the fire, and reading books. It has been a terrible hardship, as you can imagine.
One of the books I read while I was on holiday was; Knightley and Son by Rohan Gavin. It was sent to me by Amazon Vine, who offer me books to review in return for my honest opinion of them.
Honestly? I thought this book was great.
Further research shows me that Rohan Gavin, the author of this, his first book for children, is the son of Jamila Gavin, author of among other novels, Coram Boy, an award winning historical adventure novel for teens. He had a lot to live up to, as a children’s author, but I think he has pulled it off, albeit in a very different style to his mother.
In Knightley and Son, Rohan Gavin takes us to a modern day, re-imagined Sherlock Holmes style setting in which Darkus Knightley, twelve year old son of famous private detective Alan Knightley finds his world turned upside down when his father slips into a stress induced coma state after having discovered a secret society of evildoers called The Combination, planning to take over the world.
Alan has tried to warn everyone of his findings, but people think he is going mad, and his coma and incarceration in hospital is the final death knell to any hopes he may have had that anyone might take his findings seriously. Anyone except Darkus, that is.
When the story opens, Alan has been in a coma for three years, and Darkus has spent that time studying his father’s files, trying to make sense of his cases, and find anything that might shed light on his father’s suspicions about this evil, secret society. Alan spontaneously comes out of his coma just as a series of crimes starts sweeping the country, seemingly generated by a self help book, which the perpetrators of the crime allege, told them to rob banks, etc.
Darkus and Alan join forces, albeit reluctantly, along with Darkus’ troubled step sister to try and crack the case, and find out if there is a deeper evil behind the crimes.
The story is well paced and suitably tense, demanding that you keep turning the pages. The relationship between Darkus and Alan is fascinating, as it explores the emotions behind Darkus’ need to be like his father, and the impact of Alan’s absence on his family and Darkus in particular. This drilling down into their relationship gives a much needed depth to what could otherwise be a fairly superficial crime adventure novel.
I loved the moments of humour in the book. The character of Clive, the petrol head television presenter and Darkus’ step father is particularly well drawn, and the episode where his test drive goes very wrong had me giggling out loud. I imagine it would go down particularly well with its intended audience.
There is a good balance throughout in terms of light and dark, tension and humour, violence and more simplistic adventure story. As an adult reading you have to give leeway to the author for the plot holes which simply have to be there to allow the children in the book the freedom to do the investigating they need to make the book work. I doubt that child readers would notice them, being far too swept along in the story.
The book is primarily aimed at boys, but the character of Tilly, Darkus’ step sister, gives girls an interest too, and Tilly is a good, strong character with plenty of potential, which will hopefully developed in future books. The book is suitable for ten to thirteen year olds. I would happily give it to younger readers if they were fluent enough to cope with the novel format as there is nothing too terrible here that might offend. This would be a perfect book to offer children who are into Sherlock Holmes, and seems to be one of the many Holmesian offerings available to younger readers coming onto the market in time for Christmas.