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I Spy: The Constantinople Caper
by Graham Marks
Trey can’t wait to go on a grand tour of Europe with his father – until he realizes it involves dusty museums and boring business meetings. Then, out of the blue, everything changes and they’re boarding the Orient Express, destination: Constantinople. And he’s sure they’re being followed by a sinister man with a pencil moustache. Who is this shadowy stranger? Trey feels like his personal hero – star sleuth Trent “Pistol” Gripp, from Black Ace magazine – with his own mystery to solve! But it’s a mystery that’s about to turn deadly – when Trey finds himself on his own, and on the run, in a city that he soon discovers has a thousand hidden dangers…
“Adventure stories - for boys and girls - don't come better than this...”
Lancashire Evening Post
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At precisely 22.20 the train heaved itself into motion, the start of the journey heralded by a lot of clanking and the screeching of steel on steel as the wheels bit on the rails, all accompanied by the slow but steadily building pulse of the massive steam engine up front. As soon as he could, Trey got out of their fully-appointed sleeper compartment, which was situated towards the front of the train, and set off to explore the rest of the carriages. At least that’s what he told his father he was doing.
What he was actually up to was trying to find out if The Man With the Pencil Mustache (as the story would be called if it was in Black Ace magazine) had got on the train with them. And if he had, was he following them? And if he was – why? These questions demanded to be answered and Trey figured that this was a very good time to do some snooping, when everyone was, like his father, trying to sort themselves out – searching for misplaced luggage, remembering what they’d left behind and complaining about their accommodation to the harassed steward; under these circumstances, no one was going to pay too much attention to some kid.
The first thing Trey noticed was that, unfortunately, there were a few other kids around his age on board, which meant he was probably going to have to put up with his father trying to make him get to know them. Even if they didn’t speak a word of English. Which, seeing as they were in France, for heaven’s sake, was highly likely. And he did not need any new friends, especially ones chosen for him purely by circumstance, something his father consistently failed to understand.
Pushing on, Trey made his way towards the rear of the train. Monsieur Mustache, as Trey now thought of him, was nowhere to be seen in any of the sleeping compartments ahead of the dining car (although a lot of them did have their doors shut, and he made a note of which they were so he could check them out later); the mystery man wasn’t in the dining car either, which wasn’t altogether a surprise as they weren’t actually serving food yet, so Trey carried on with his search.
Eyes peeled, he sauntered along the gently swaying corridors, the engine picking up speed as they began to hurtle through the night towards Switzerland, and by the time he’d reached the baggage car there was still no sign of Monsieur Mustache. Trey was sure he’d been as dedicated and professional a snoop as any of the gumshoes he read about, which meant that the man was either in one of the cabins he’d not yet seen the inside of, or – and he really did not want to consider this possibility, but knew he had to – maybe the man hadn’t got on the train and had never been following them in the first place.
Trey, shoulders slumped, was just pondering this thought when the door next to him, which led to the baggage car, opened and a man came out. He was dressed in a black double-breasted suit, had on a dark grey fedora and sported a pencil mustache and Trey was so glad to see him he almost cheered out loud.
“E’scuse me,” the man said, in an obviously foreign accent; he smelled of heavy, dark tobacco and cologne and his black hair, Trey noticed as he went past, shone with pomade like it had been polished.
He hadn’t given Trey a second look…but did that mean the man was just not repeating the mistake he’d made on the platform when he been spotted staring, or that he really didn’t give a darn?
Letting the man have half a carriage start, Trey began to follow to see where he went and whom he might talk to, traipsing behind him until the man stopped by a carriage exit door; he lit a stubby, yellow cigarette with a match and stared out at the passing night, the pungent smoke drifting down the corridor. Trey hung back, racking his brains trying to think what to do next – mooch around and try to appear like he was supposed to be there? Walk on past Monsieur Mustache?
And then a hand gripped his shoulder, and he froze…
“Monsieur MacIntyre? Votre pere…excusez moi…your father, ’e is looking for you, young man.”
Trey turned round and saw one of the conductors looking down at him. “My father?”
“Exactement, ’e was worried, telling me you ’ave been quelques minutes…some time.” The man examined his fob watch as if to emphasize the point, and then made a shooing motion with his hands. “Il attend…’e is waiting for you in the restaurant car. You ’ad better go.”
Trey nodded, mumbled a “Merci, Monsieur” and then, as the conductor walked away, he saw that his target had disappeared! Resisting the urge to run, Trey walked as fast as he could, desperately trying to catch sight of Monsieur Mustache. He was nowhere in sight, but as Trey hurried past one particular cabin, cursing his luck and the conductor’s bad timing, he got a sudden, strong whiff of cigarette smoke. Smoke from that yellow cigarette, he was sure of it!
Fishing out his pocket notebook and reporter’s pencil, Trey made a quick note of the carriage and room number and then hurried on towards the dining car and the inevitable lecture from his father about punctuality, reliability and tardiness…
Graham Marks had his first collection of poetry published while he was at art school, studying graphic design. After a successful career as an art director he decided it was time for a change and now works as a journalist and author. He has written everything from comic strips and film tie-ins to advertising copy and novels, and he has most recently been highly acclaimed for his Young Adult books.
Graham is married to fellow journalist and author Nadia Marks and lives in London with his two sons and a cat called Boots.
Visit www.marksworks.co.uk to find out more.
Shortlisted for the Coventry Inspiration Book Awards Raring 2 Read category (7-11)
A series of panels comprising of librarians, teachers and education advisers selected the shortlists. They were looking for books that will inspire readers and books that will get children hooked on reading. The winner is chosen via online voting at www.myvotescoventry.org with books being eliminated each week.
There's a great deal in Graham Marks' new spy novel, set in the 1930s, to appeal to young readers. For starters, try: an almost stupidly brave young hero, Trey; an (apparent) array of ruthless villains; exotic locations, including the Orient Express, Venice and Constantinople; a German spy; a shady Turkish journalist with his heart in the right place; four other feisty children (two boys and two girls); and some great chases and escapes...An entertaining and colourful novel.
Armadillo Online Magazine
Forget Harry Potter and his fantasy world, this is real boys' own stuff ... car chases, villains sporting guns, kidnaps, hair-raising escapes ... and all set in the exotic and teeming 1920s metropolis of Constantinople. Marks has chosen a winning backdrop for this thrilling journey through the shadowy world of 1920s espionage and Trey is just the sort of hero that boys of any era can get to grips with ... inquisitive, daring, coolly courageous and with a great sense of fun. Adventure stories - for boys and girls - don't come better than this...
Lancashire Evening Post
The setting of this stunning novel is the shadowy world of 1920’s Constantinople – a world of spies and intrigue. Graham Marks weaves a gloriously spellbinding tale. Is nothing, as it seems? Can nobody be trusted?
"An exciting and atmospheric thriller."
Junior Education Plus
There is something delightfully nostalgic about this novel and it harks back to the boys' adventure comics of the early 20th century. The historical setting has been meticulously researched, from 1920s state-of-the-art cars to obscure contemporary slang and one can't escape the feeling that Marks relishes these details! Overall, I Spy is very much a traditional 'Boy's Own' fare, combining a focus on father-son relationships with danger, break-neck adventure and a big dollop of bravery and self-reliance.
Satisfying revelations unfold in Graham Marks’s I Spy: The Constantinople Caper, an enjoyable mystery with the flavour of the 1920s classics it mildly spoofs, in which a detective-story-mad boy accompanies his father on the Orient Express, followed by a man with a pencil moustache.
Sunday Times Children's Christmas Books
A thrilling read for teenagers; brilliant; 5 stars! - review by Calum Hunter
I really liked this book and wished it was true because I got so involved in it. Every chapter ended on a cliff-hanger which made me want to read on. I liked how the main character, Trey, was independent and clever, and the same age as me. This was a good book and I'd recommend it to others. - review by Rodrigo Mccafferty
Teen Titles 46
Enter the shadowy world of 1920s Constantinople - a city of a thousand hidden dangers when you’re alone and on the run. Who is the shadowy stranger following Trey and his father? Is Trey’s father hiding something? Nothing is what it seems. Who, if anyone can be trusted? Armed with a suitcase full of his favourite tales of super-sleuths and daring detectives, Trey is thrilled to be accompanying his father on a trip across Europe. So imagine his excitement when, as they board the Orient Express, Trey thinks they are being followed by a mysterious stranger. Has Trey been reading one too many spy capers of his hero Trent ‘Pistol’ Gripp? A world of spies, intrigue, guns and care chases await.
News & Mail
I really enjoyed reading this book. It’s a great adventure from start to finish! The story gets into the action fast and is really cool! It is about a boy called Trey who is going on a trip with his father but his father disappears and it’s up to Trey to find him! It’s full of excitement and you feel all the emotions that Trey feels too. I would recommend this book to everyone! My favourite part was when Trey jumped out the window and into the pool of water! I can imagine myself doing that! There are many parts that I really liked but that was most daring!!! It also includes my favourite things - spies and mystery - lots of mystery! I couldn’t put the book down. Trey is just a normal boy like me, and he enjoys reading detective magazines. It’s like one of these stories came to life. I wondered if it was just his imagination at first. I personally would give the book a five star rating!
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