An overnight train ride sets the stage for Davey’s debut children’s mystery.
Cora Flash, a precocious 11-year-old girl, is on her way to visit an uncle who lives in a remote mountain area. Traveling alone, she does her best to reassure her mother via the occasional text. While readers tag along on her first-person journey, Cora, ever the observer, investigates the train and chats with her fellow travelers. She notices a suspicious looking man with a “tiny, thin mustache,” wearing a “strange round hat” and tightly clutching a silver briefcase. Always on the lookout for new adventures, Cora is secretly delighted when the word spreads that the famous “Diamond of Madagascar” has been stolen and that the crime occurred on the train. The story then kicks into high gear, à la Agatha Christie. Among the interesting cast of characters is a smart, surly female college student, a honeymooning couple (the husband is endearingly geeky), a stuffy, routine-bound bird watcher, and the cheerful and accommodating porter, Willy. There’s also an irresistible Norfolk terrier named Calvin, who quickly takes to Cora, and an undercover policeman who, upon discovering the crime, reveals himself and separately interviews the suspects. Davey admirably creates unique, believable characters almost solely through narrative and dialogue. In terms of visual descriptions, though, most of the characters get the short shrift, including Cora. With more detailed portrayals, the characters could become all the richer. Though much of the witty dialogue moves at a fairly good clip, it occasionally sounds too affected and drags down the story, which frequently occurs when characters exchange extensive formal pleasantries. Readers are sure to be surprised and tickled when the culprit is finally revealed, and the terrific, satisfying ending promises a sequel.
All aboard this lighthearted, old-fashioned whodunit.