The Lost Book Shop: The Mystery of the Missing Monkey by Adam Maxwell
Thank you very much to Touchscreen Tales for the copy they sent me – very exciting to be asked if I want to review something and I felt really quite flattered! Thank you!
When Nina discovers a secret door in her uncle and aunt’s overcrowded higgeldy-piggeldy bookshop, it becomes a door to a whole new world for herself and her two companions, Ivy and Oswald. The gateway they step through though soon turns dangerous, as they work to solve the mystery of the missing monkey before the thief turns on them too.
I love the imagination behind this story. Yes, I know, a secret door to another world in the middle of a bookshop does sound rather Secret Garden/Narnia, but the build up the door being found is what drew me in. I really got a sense in the first few pages of Nina and Ivy carefully picking their way through the overcrowded bookshop, tiptoeing round the stacks and peeking behind the wobbling columns.
As always though what really grabbed me were the characters. The stars of the show are, of course, the circus inhabitants and I personally think Wallace the 8ft Lion is a work of genius, especially when he’s put together with his weedy little trainer Albert. I’ve got a very clear image of the two of them in my head – Wallace in a very smart velevet tailcoat and Albert thin and weedy in a rather silly ‘Lion Man’ animal skin costume. Whether this is what the author was going for, I don;t know, but if even I can conjure up such a picture in my head it probabaly says a lot for the way Maxwell has crafted his characters! I do query whether Maxwell is a US author though, mainly because much as I love the name I’m not entirely sure Doctor Dick the Duck will catch on over here in the UK, that particular name (you know which one I mean!) having one too many connotations attached to it. Still, I love the thinking behind it. Edit: Just realised he’s not from the US, he’s UK too.
The circus setting is very richly described and clearly the author has worked hard on it. It’s also pretty obvious (at least, I thought so!) that the author has some sort of background in working either as a librarian or a bookseller, I’m not sure which. Little things like Nina’s uncle’s insistence on computers taking up shelf space tend to sound rather reminiscent of certain librarians and booksellers I know, so I must admit I wouldn’t be surprised to find out Adam Maxwell was either one! Regardless, it does rather give the impression that this a book for booklovers.
The only thing that I would say niggled me about this book is that it felt for me a little disjointed. It felt like things just happened in the story – characters went from point A to point B, but how they got there wasn’t described or explained and one moment you were with them at A, the next at B. The best way I can describe it is it’s as if a film were missing a few frames in a reel, not enough to leave you wondering what happened but enough so that you notice a gap. For me, it did serve to make the story feel a tad disjointed at times.
That said though, I did fall in love with Wallace and Albert and I would be interested in seeing where The Lost Bookshop goes next. Oh, and I have a sudden inexplicable urge to learn how to tightrope walk…
Find The Lost Book Shop here. If you click on the Kindle version, you can even try the first three chapters for free!