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The Painted Dragon by Katherine Woodfine is the third book in her Sinclair’s Mysteries series, which feature the young women detectives, Lil and Sophie. The first two books in the series are The Clockwork Sparrow and The Jewelled Moth. I actually own these as the series was highly recommended to me by someone last year. I hadn’t got round to reading them, but I will be putting them higher up my to read list after finishing The Painted Dragon for the Amazon Vine review programme.

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I loved this book and there are already a list of people I know who will love it too, and I can’t wait to recommend it to them.

The books are set at the time of the beginning of women’s emancipation. The suffragette movement is on the march, and girls are beginning to get jobs and a real sense of independence. Lil is an actress. Sophie works in the millinery department of Sinclair’s famous department store, but what excites them both most, is solving mysteries, which it turns out they have a knack for.

In this book, things are in the doldrums rather and Sophie is beginning to get bored selling hats all day, when things look up. A famous art collector proposes to hold a unique art exhibition at Sinclair’s. Not only will it feature rare and famous paintings, but it will also turn the shop windows into living art displays and feature new works by up and coming art students at the famous art school, The Spencer. Lil is abuzz with the news, as she is about to become one of the living paintings. Sophie is less enthralled until the most famous painting in the exhibition, The Green Dragon, is stolen on the very morning the show is supposed to open.

The two girls and their friends are drawn into investigating the theft when their friend from the art school, Leonora, is framed for the theft and it quickly becomes apparent that Leonora’s life is in danger.

This is a wonderful whodunnit featuring great heroines, a wonderful cast of extraneous characters and set against a brilliant depiction of Edwardian England. Woodfine’s attention to detail brings the story alive without bogging it down under the weight of historical detail. The atmosphere is perfect, the pace is fast and the story intriguing. It can be read as a standalone novel, which I did with no trouble at all, but it is clear by the end of this book that the adventures of the previous books are all interlinked and that there is more to come in the next volume.

I recommend it to children aged eight and up. It’s exciting without being scary, clever without being tricky to read and utterly absorbing. I loved it.

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