Sparks fly when Watts follows Mycroft to London in this second sophisticated thriller about the teen crime-fighting pair.
Ellie Marney was born in Brisbane, and has lived in Indonesia, Singapore and India. Now she writes, teaches and gardens when she can, while living in a country idyll (actually a very messy wooden house on ten acres with a dog and lots of chickens) near Castlemaine, in north-central Victoria. Her short stories have won awards (including the 2010 Scarlet Stiletto Award for women's short crime writing) and been published in anthologies (such as Award Winning Australian Writing 2009 and 2011). Ellie's first YA crime novel, Every Breath, was released by Allen & Unwin in August 2013. Her partner and four sons still love her, even though she often forgets things and lets the housework go.
In the prologue to Every Word, there is the smell of an approaching bushfire in the air and we are told that, “When the hot wind races, a change will come. A man could die, a crime could be committed, a history of secrets could bubble to the surface like lava.” Almost immediately, we are plunged into an adventure that sees our seventeen-year-old, roller-derby playing narrator Rachel Watts follow her boyfriend, James Mycroft, to London on the trail of a crime that is remarkably similar to the events that led to the deaths of his parents years earlier. They must both deal with the emotional trauma that this involves, not to mention the crime itself. In the course of the narrative, there is an autopsy, a visit to the Sherlock Holmes Museum, the theft of a priceless Shakespearean First Folio, a kidnapping and, of course, the relationship between our modern day Holmes and ‘Watson’ with its incumbent sexual tension and adolescent angst.
This is the second book in Ellie Marney’s series which is a kind of contemporary reworking of the Sherlock Holmes stories, although it doesn’t matter if you haven’t read the first book (I hadn’t) as it makes perfect sense regardless. The story moves along at a good pace and, in spite of its dramatic events, remains believable throughout, not least because of its well-developed characters who will resonate with a young Australian audience due to their use of ‘Aussie’ slang (e.g. “flannie shirt” and “bum crack”), mobile phones and various forms of social media. Their Melbourne background, with the mention of locations such as Sydney Road, the Westgarth Cinema and the St Kilda Road Police Headquarters, also provide an aura of authenticity.
Every Word would be a great text for Year 10 classes, with its strong, intelligent, and independent teenage protagonists and engaging plot. Because of its intertextual references, it would also lend itself to a unit of work that included some of the contemporary TV and film adaptations of Conan Doyle’s writing, a look at some of the original Sherlock Holmes stories and perhaps even a little bit of Shakespeare. I would recommend this novel for both genders as it is accessible and entertaining, without being patronising to its young adult audience.
Deborah Huismann, English Teacher, Melbourne Girls’ College, Richmond VIC