A junior Jonathan Creek-style mystery in which the clever and resourceful young magician, Phyllis Wong, helps solve numerous crimes including the thefts of a missing diamond necklace and the most valuable painting ever to come to the city.
Geoffrey McSkimming is the author of the bestselling Cairo Jim chronicles and Jocelyn Osgood jaunts, and a book of verse, Ogre in a Toga and Other Perverse Verses. In addition to the Cairo Jim series and Ogre in a Toga, Geoffrey McSkimming has contributed to magazines and poetry anthologies and also narrates the award-winning Cairo Jim Chronicles audio books for Bolinda Publishing. He has written five character tours which take place regularly through the galleries at the Art Gallery of NSW in Sydney and a popular performance work, 'The Startling Tale of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark' (with additional dialogue by William Shakespeare), a monologue in verse. Geoffrey's Cairo Jim and Jocelyn Osgood books are published around the world including UK, Japan, Korea, Portugal, Germany, Italy, Poland, Russia and Hungary.
Phyllis Wong and the Forgotten Secrets of Mr. Okyto, by Geoffrey McSkimming is a terrific story that leaves the reader waiting for another installment. Like his Cairo Jim books, the mystery reveals itself chapter by chapter, and the reader, like the main character, Phyllis, find out clues to the forgotten secret at the same time. The author’s descriptions of tricks and illusions are impeccable, and his characters are equally carefully constructed. We meet Phyllis, a master of all things in the magical realm; her dog, an extremely intuitive and loyal pet; and Clement her friend, who is a whiz with gadgets and games. As in McSkimming’s previous books there are number of very flamboyant characters who leap from the page with their accents and idiosyncracies . After a number of robberies prove to be connected, and a magician seems to be involved, Phyllis just has to get to the bottom of the mystery. Chief Inspector Inglis, her neighbour and friend, is only too pleased to have help from Phyllis and allows her access to crime scenes that no one else is allowed to enter.
Along with amazing feats of magic, this story has a dastardly villain, colourful characters, and a plot that compels you to keep reading. It is a well crafted tome, that is appropriate for confident readers. I would give it an 8 out of 10. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Phyllis Wongs’ story and look forward to another mysterious encounter between her and the man in the frock coat.
Katharine York, Teacher Librarian, Chairo Christian School
This book is a charming and engaging read for children and adults who wish to indulge their inner child. Phyllis is an endearing character who easily moves the story ever forward and whilst keeping on track. She is a well rounded character that grows considerably in her understand of magic and friendship through the novel.
McSkimming’s use of the English language is to be praised for his find choices of words that should tweak any 9-14 year old’s vocabulary and for then mixing in some language play through the invention of new words that are quite fun to read. The plot is most intriguing with no lulls that could lead to boredom. The pace is metered well, with constant page turning rewarded. Whilst the tone of the book is mostly playful and none too serious, there are two very intense scenes that fit comfortably with the overall narrative style. I literally ‘jaw dropped’ at both of them as I had not anticipated them at all. The magic is well described without giving so much away as to loose it’s awe factor in the book or for any tricks the reader may come across elsewhere.
I will be recommending this book to children 9 and upward, as well as a few adults who I know will enjoy the read. The book leaves off at a point where it could have a follow up or this could be the start of a new series from McSkimming as long as the ‘magic’ of the read is not lost with repetition.
Phyllis lives with her father and dog, Daisy in an apartment that was once part of the grand home of her great grandfather, Wallace Wong; the Conjuror of Wonder who mysteriously disappeared in 1936 while performing. Like her great-grandfather, Phyllis also had a passion for magic and enjoys practising her tricks, to the amazement of others. Phyllis is friends with some of the other residents in the apartment block, including Mrs Lowerblast, who owns Lowerblast’s Antiques & Collectables Emporium which is on the ground floor of the apartment block.
After visiting the emporium, Phyllis discovers that Mrs Lowblast is upset by her discovery of the theft of a rare bookend from her shop that apparently occurred right in front of her eyes. With the help of her friend, Clement, this sets Phyllis on a search to discover how the bookend was stolen. However, this mystery soon escalates to include searching for a stolen necklace that, according to CCTV footage, seems to have also disappeared into thin air. Phyllis’ quest to solve the mysteries takes some surprising and even dangerous turns.
This is an intriguing book about mystery, magic and friendship and is most suited to girls aged 9 and over. The story of Wallace Wong’s disappearance many years before and the eventual discovery of how this occurred is also inter-woven throughout the book. While the story couldn’t be described as ‘action-packed’, it is interesting to discover how the thefts are resolved and readers will delight in a junior sleuth being able to solve the crimes where the police could not.
Catherine Duffett, The Hutchins School, Hobart