This is the third in the Angela Marchmont series of cozies, and, seriously, I had a whale of a time with this book. It’s got smuggling, a secret room, mysterious tunnels, a missing diamond necklace and anonymous letters, not to mention a number of characters behaving in suspiciously odd ways. The plot is completely preposterous, of course, but the most amazing fun, and a great leap forward from the first two books in the series.
The character of Angela herself is really beginning to shine, now. She’s turning into a wonderful heroine, intelligent and self-confident, with a relaxed approach to her investigations. Angela’s god-daughter, Barbara, is a magnificent side-kick. She’s twelve years old, and has that gung-ho let’s-have-a-go attitude that reminded me strongly of the Famous Five. While Angela is sedately looking stuff up in the library, Barbara is crawling through tunnels, picking locks, hiding in cupboards and creeping round in the middle of night. And it’s so refreshing to see that Angela doesn’t fret about her, having the quaintly old-fashioned idea that children are capable, sensible human beings, perfectly well able to look after themselves.
For anyone with an eye for detail, it probably doesn’t pay to look too closely at the logistics of the plot. There are a number of too-convenient contrivances, and some of the mysteries were very easy to solve. But it was all jolly good fun, a thoroughly enjoyable read from start to finish. And I do hope that a certain character reappears in future books as a romantic focus for Angela. Four stars.