Knightley & Son by Rohan Gavin

Publisher: Bloomsbury Childrens Books
ISBN: 9781408838914
Published: 2/1/2014

Alan Knightley (former private investigator of the sort of myterious cases that the Metropolitan Police don’t want to touch) has been asleep for four years. His son, Darkus Knightley, has sat by his side and kept him company ever since. When he goes home though, he studies his dad’s old notes on past cases, trying to work out what it was his dad was working on when he just fell asleep. When Alan wakes up unexpectedly though, Darkus soon finds himself flung right into the middle of his dad’s last and most intricate case, the one headed by the mysterious and devious Combination.

I was really looking forward to reading this after meeting the author at a Bloomsbury author event last year. I was lucky enough that when I asked they sent me a proof copy of the book (signed!) and I’ve been saving this review up until I could do the book justice because the author was just that nice (so if anyone’s thinking of having him do an author event with you, do – he’s lovely and was very tolerant of my babbling!).

There’s more than hint of Sherlock Holmes in this London romp, especially within Darkus and his penchant for tweed. This doesn’t mean it’s just retreading familiar ground though – Holmes is more the backdrop of the story rather than the central influence, if you see what I mean. There’s more to this story than London and daft hats.

There’s a lot of tongue in cheek reference throughout the book which helps jolly the story along. I’m rather fond myself of the Polish caretaker Bogna (who’s ever-so protective of Alan and Darkus and is redsicovering the joys of driving a taxicab as we speak), although I love the little potshots at Top Gear (Wheel Spin) and self-help publishing sensations in the form of the story’s own mystery tome, The Code. Uncle Bill, or Montague Billoch of the Old Bill, kept me going for a good five minutes, sniggering away (also giving me the chance to practice my best Scottish brogue)!

I have seen some people criticise the book though for being a little slow to get going and yes, I think I do agree with them to an extent. The book spends a bit of time at the start really just following Darkus about as he flits between his dad at the hospital and his room where he memorises old cases and although it’s entertaining enough to read, you do find yourself wondering when something is going to happen. That said though, once the plot does get going it gets going. Before you know it you’re rollicking around London in a traditional black cab, diving into abandoned Tube stations and running around after Darkus and Mr Knightley as they face off against publishers, auctioneers and mysterious men who go poof! when you follow them. Admit it – that’s a flicker of intrigue in your eye isn’t it?

As always, I like to really get involved with the characters when I read a book and oddly enough Knightley & Son both did and didn’t manage to draw me in on this one. On the one hand, there were some characters (such as Bogna the Polish Caretaker and Uncle Bill) that I quickly came t adore. I swear I ahave never come away from a book feeling like I could get away with a stunning Scots accent whilst eating a Rich Tea before – Uncle Bill has got possibly the best written Scots brogue I have ever read (says the Londoner, but we’ll leave that aside!) and it was really easy to fall into his character whilst reading. I found myself reading his lines out loud under my breath, I got so drawn in. On the other hand though, we have Darkus, Alan Knightley and Darkus’s stepsister Tilly, who incidentally is the daughter of Alan’s former (deceased) partner. These three characters I would have liked to have seen more of, which is disappointing when they’re supposed to be the main characters. Not that they’re underrepresented; more that I came away from the book feeling like I wanted more – more of Darkus and Alan, more of Darkus and Tilly and that strange sibling rivalry/teamwork thing they’ve got going on, and more more MORE of Alan and Tilly because there’s some serious stuff to sort out between those two and I want to read it. It’s a bit of a niggle because at times I almost felt like I got more of an idea of Uncle Bill than Alan Knightley or Tilly, and he wasn’t even in the story for half the book!

In fact, this is probably the biggest flaw I’ve found with Knightley & Son – there just isn’t enough of the main characters, I think because most of the book seems to be spent setting up everything for the rest of the series. I get the distinct impression that there’ll be a lot more of Tilly, Darkus and Alan in the next book and although it’s certainly a series I’ll be seeking out in the future, I must admit that I would have liked a little less setting up and more character shenanigins in this first story.

One thing the books can’t be criticsed on though – it’s baddies! They are rather nefarious, it has to be said. I must admit that the ultimate Big Bad was not the one that really grabbed me though – oh no, the one I want to see more of is this mysteriius Presto, who seems to not only posess a pleasingly overly-dramatic daft name but also a penchant for disappearing at the drop of a hat (or a cloud of smoke). I want more of him and I’m really hoping he rocks up in the next book.

Altogether then, this book has a lot of potential. It kept me reading and so long as the next story gives me a bit more of the main characters (and the big bads!) I can see myself staying with the series for quite some time to come.

Find Knightley & Son here. Thank you to Bloomsbury for my proof copy.

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