By Author / Illustrator
M. G. Leonard, illus Paddy Donnelly
Mystery & Detective
Walker Books Ltd
Paperback / softback
M.G. Leonard, internationally bestselling author of Twitch, Beetleboy and Adventures on Trains, is back with another thrilling wildlife mystery for birdwatching detectives The Twitchers!
When Jack rescues a wounded cat, he quickly suspects foul play. Could there be a wildlife criminal on the loose in Briddvale? Jack rushes to investigate, determined to catch the culprit, only to stumble into a deepening mystery and a sinister criminal plot. Can Jack and The Twitchers stop the villains before it's too late?
Praise for Twitch: "Leonard knows her audience and the jeopardy comes in flocks ... Find your nest, curl up and enjoy." The Times, Children's Book of the Week. "A twist-laden, thriller-like tale of a bird-mad boy, some bullies and an escaped convict hiding in the nearby woods." Observer. "Simply genius." BBC Wildlife Magazine. Also available: Twitch (book 1)
Twitch and his friends are back, solving a new mystery and birdwatching at the same time. This story, the focus is on Twitch's friend Jack, who is not certain he will ever make a good twitcher. Instead, he decides to investigate a spate of shootings of cats in the local area, after discovering one of them injured in the woods. Meanwhile the Twitchers are looking forward to the arrival of a rare bird, the bearded vulture, making a once in a lifetime visit to the area. What Jack discovers mean this rare, endangered bird, will be in deadly peril. Can Jack and Twitch save the bird, or will the villains beat them to it?
Twitch, the first book in the series, was one of my favourite books last year. It got the whole family watching out for birds and trying to learn a bit more about them. I was really looking forward to reading this second book and whilst it is slightly less diverse in the birds it covered, it is still a cracking read. The adventure takes centre stage, alongside the bearded vulture, and Jack steps up as the lead character in this story. He is a character wracked with self-doubt and how he overcomes all of that also makes it an interesting read.
This book can be read as a standalone (though obviously I would highly recommend reading Twitch) and would suit anyone who is after a high octane adventure from beginning to end, coupled with a mystery element and some extremely unpleasant baddies!
320 pages / Reviewed by Jacqueline Harris, teacher
Suggested Reading Age 9+
A new adventure for the mystery-solving Twitchers! When Jack finds an injured cat, he realises that the animal has been deliberately shot. After talking to a vet, he discovers that other animals have been similarly hurt, one fatally. He decides that the Twitchers should investigate these crimes and talks to his best friend Twitch about the incident. However, Twitch is more interested in the news that a rare bearded vulture, a Lammergeier, is due to arrive in Briddvale. Disappointed in Twitch's reaction, Jack enrols two of the other Twitchers, Ava and Terry, and they start to hunt for the people who are harming the cats without telling Twitch and the rest of the group.
I really enjoyed this fast moving and cleverly plotted novel. We have two storylines in Spark, the mystery of the injured cats and the arrival of the Lammergeier, which go along side by side before combining in a thrilling conclusion. Jack is the lead character for much of the story. He feels guilty that he is keeping secrets from Twitch, but feels that he must try and stop whoever is responsible for hurting innocent animals. Terry and Ava are his willing accomplices – I particularly loved Terry, who doesn't mind riding a pink bicycle and can make himself cry when necessary! We also meet the villainous gamekeeper Nick Skinner and the awful Lady Goremore, who has a collection of stuffed endangered birds hidden away in Mord Hall. When Jack realises that she is trying to add the Lammergeier to her collection, aided by Skinner, his nephew Richard Peak (a notorious bully) and Peak's friend Tom Madden, the story really gathers pace, leading to a brilliantly written, and very funny scene in which Jack fakes his own death! Jack and Twitch finally talk properly and join forces to protect the Lammergeier and bring the culprits to justice in a very satisfying conclusion.
The author cleverly gives the reader a wonderful mix of adventure and factual information. We learn a great deal about the much-misunderstood Lammergeier and its way of life. This bird is a "lifer" for Twitch - a bird not on his bird spotting list, but one which he dreams of adding to it. The vulture also turns out to be Jack's "spark" bird - the one which truly sparks off his interest in birdwatching, hence the book's title.
As with the previous novel in this series, there is a great emphasis on friendship and on the importance of working together to reach a common goal. As the story concludes, all of the Twitchers are involved in foiling Lady Goremore's evil plans; each character has their own important part to play in the denouement.
This lovely book is the second in the series, and clearly the author is planning more adventures for the Twitchers. I, for one, can't wait to read them!
320 pages / Reviewed by Beverley Somerset, school librarian
Suggested Reading Age 9+