The Marlows and the Traitor

Girls Gone By Publishing are re-issuing the impossible-to-find 'holiday' titles of Antonia Forest's Marlows series, and I eagerly pre-ordered The Marlows and the Traitor, the second Marlows novel, which I had heard much about, but never read. Amazingly, a couple of weeks after I'd placed my order, I managed to find a copy for sale on a local secondhand book website… so I will have two copies soon…

This was such a terrific read. On one level, it is a fairly standard kids' adventure story, complete with seaside holiday, exploration of deserted house, discovery of spy, kidnap, shipwreck, and imprisonment in lighthouse. But nothing is straightforward in Antonia Forest's books; as someone put it on the Trennels forum, 'No motive is unmixed.' The villain is a charismatic, appealing character (though clearly behaving badly). The young protagonists are by turns courageous, terrified, sympathetic, resourceful, reckless, panicky… but their reactions are rarely predictable, and never stereotyped. It was eminently satisfying, too, to fit in this missing piece of the puzzle, and reflect on the lasting effects that this adventure has on the four youngest Marlows, and how they echo through later volumes -- Ginty's paralysing self-doubt, Peter's occasional bullying and fascination with treachery, Nicola's growing maturity, Lawrie's self-serving fantasy world.

Not many children's books of this era would have dared to allow one of their young heroes to actually shoot (and presumably kill) an adult enemy. It's just one of the risks that Forest takes in this book. I can't wait to re-read it.

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