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Dead man talking
by Carol Hedges
Jazmin Dawson, Spy Girl, is back - just in time to save the world, again. Well, not quite. But Jazmin does have a two-cookie problem on her hands, what with looking after the new weird twins at her learning centre, and the fact she's Enemy Number One with the class bully. Jazmin's secret agent mum, Assia, also has problems, trying to identify a murdered man. When her trail leads to a long-buried secret, Assia is forced to confront a man more evil than she could ever imagine. The trouble is, Jazmin has got there first.
“It's top stuff that is not afraid to talk intelligently to its readership.”
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It is midnight in London. A cold damp wind. The star-studded sky barely visible beyond the yellow glow from the halogen street lamps. A man is stumbling along by the River Thames. Even in his vague, semi-conscious state, he senses that this is not his part of the river. This is upstream; the water is choppy, pushing its way impatiently between the opposing banks.
There are two other men with him. They hold him firmly by his arms. To the casual passer-by it looks as if he has had too much to drink, and is being helped back home
by his friends, or maybe casual acquaintances.
This is not what is happening.
The man experiences a sense of unreality. He cannot feel his feet, or the path under them. He doesn’t struggle, try to escape. His brain is hard-wired to survive, so he
guesses they must have slipped something into his drink earlier to make him compliant. He does not remember. But he knows with the part of his brain that is still working, that this is going to end very badly.
The two men stop. A blindfold is placed around his eyes. They walk on for a short distance. Then stop again.
The air feels different now. Closer, denser. He has the sensation of standing beneath a big, overarching structure. Is he under a bridge? He is propelled forward. A voice murmurs something in his ear. He cannot make out the words being said.
There is the rumble of traffic above his head.
There is the sound of water lapping against wooden stanchions below.
These will be the last things that he hears.
TWO DAYS EARLIER
“Whoa – this is the life.” Jazmin Dawson sighed contentedly. She raised her glass of fresh fruit juice. “Happy birthday, Mum!”
“Thank you, hon,” Assia Dawson smiled.
“Good old Uncle Ian,” Jazmin continued. “A long weekend in Venice – what a great present.”
Assia nodded in agreement, sipping her espresso.
“So what shall we do next?” Jazmin asked, glancing round St. Mark’s Square, which was packed with strolling tourists and strutting pigeons.
Assia consulted the e-guide on her handheld. “I think I’d like to look round the Basilica again. There’s still so much I haven’t seen.”
Assia signalled to the waiter. “Per favore,” she said, handing him a couple of notes. “Grazie,” she murmured, as he gave her back the change.
“Prego, signora,” the waiter replied politely, piling their cups onto a tray.
“Impressive.” Jazmin nodded admiringly.
“It’s always good to try speaking another language,” her mum replied, getting to her feet. “Ready to go, hon?”
“Umm…” Jazmin demurred. They had spent the past two days looking at churches. Or art galleries. Or palaces. Which was fine, because hey, it was her mum’s treat after all. It was just that there were so many small alleys leading off the square, all holding out possibilities of mystery and intrigue. In her experience, churches and art galleries weren’t big on mystery and intrigue.
Assia glanced at her and laughed. “Okay, I get the message,” she said, “you’d rather look round the shops, wouldn’t you? No problem.” She glanced at her watch. “Let’s meet out the front of the Basilica in two hours’ time, all right?”
Carol Hedges is the successful author of several books for children and teenagers. Her writing has received much critical acclaim and her novel, Jigsaw, was shortlisted for the Angus Book Award and longlisted for the Carnegie Medal.
Carol has one grown-up daughter and lives in Hertfordshire with her husband, two cats and a lot of fish.
Nancy Drew for the Noughties...she is sassy and sharp with a unique futuristic edge.
***** Five star review!
Betty Bookmark review website
A worthy purchase... The pacing of the story is very good, from the beginning scenes in Venice, where the mystery is practically carried back by the heroines unawares in their luggage. It bears a strong sense of realistic threat to them all, and is not wrapped up in a pat or unlikely way either, but with a continued sense of the assured writing.
The Book Bag review website
Equally out to prove that young James Bond and Alex Rider are wusses, Spy Girl Jazmin Dawson is also back for another adventure (perhaps for a slightly older readership), together with her secret mother Assia, in Spy Girl: Dead Man Talking by Carol Hedges. This is a sophisticated tale that, among other things involves the 1978 murder of the Italian banker Roberto Calvi beneath Blackfriars Bridge. While her mother is on the trail of a villain dealing in stolen Venetian church artefacts, Jazmin has to deal with some rather curious twins. The narrative threads followed by mother and daughter naturally intertwine, into an impressive science-fictional villain's scheme that involves summoning figures from the past by means of molecular excitation of sacred religious relics. And what if the villain could lay his hands on one of the cups used at The Last Supper? It's top stuff that is not afraid to talk intelligently to its readership.
A sinister world of murder and theft, time travel and robots opens up in this taut and entertaining adventure involving amateur detective Jazmin and her secret agent mum, Assia. From the opening pages, the reader is plunged straight into the action - a murder that takes place along the river Thames. The next scene is a flashback to Venice, where Jazmin and her mum are enjoying a short break. While there, Jazmin comes across a priest, who, to her surprise is also on the return flight to London - but no longer dressed as a priest. Jazmin has little time to think this through since, back at school, she's asked to mentor twin newcomers whose behaviour is so distinctly strange that she's sure there's something amiss. Running parallel to her sleuthing is her mum's investigation into theft from a Venetian church.
The action-packed adventure is skilfully plotted, weaving effortlessly between Jazmin and Assia's investigations, which gradually converge into a single storyline. The writing is spiced with humour, the language slick and breezy.
Books for Keeps
I would definitely recommend this book to other readers but probably to young people around 9-10 instead. This face-paced and highly entertaining book will stop you eating and sleeping until you have finished. A major thumbs up award for Carol Hedges!
Alison Bruike, age 14, in the Cork Evening Echo
I enjoyed Dead Man Talking. It was a little slow to start, but the great storyline made it a great book. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a sharp, interesting read.
Teen reader's review in Teen Titles
It's a seriously good book and has more twists than a corkscrew. It is one of those stories you can't bear to put down.
Annie Cupit - Student's review for Lancashire Book of the Year Award 2009
Carol Hedges captures your attention straight away. This modern take on a classic detective story livens up the genre and is perfect for readers who love mystery.
Grace Dobson - Student's review for Lancashire Book of the Year Award 2009
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