The Case of the Vanishing Granny is the first in a new Big Top Mysteries series from Alexander McCall Smith, and was the first thing to be plucked out of our ‘to be read’ pile this month. As a family of The Greatest Showman fans, we find anything with a trapeze on the cover irresistible!
This is the story of Billy, Fern and Joe Shortbread, members of the Shortbread family’s circus. As well as helping with jobs like selling popcorn and putting up the Big Top, the children each have an act. Billy is a trapeze artist, Fern an acrobat and Joe, the youngest, a dog trainer.
The children’s exceptional skills prove useful outside of the circus too, especially when they add ‘solving mysteries’ to the list of challenges they take on. When they meet Tom, who is so upset that he doesn’t even smile at their show, they resolve to help him by tracking down his missing Granny .
Solving the case will require all the children’s resources – determination, acrobatics and escapology among them – as well as guidance from their circus clown teacher, but the effort is worth making when the rewards include chocolate and friendship!
Elements of this story are reminiscent of Alexander McCall Smith’s No 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, in both the warm, witty style and the fact that initial conclusions often prove the wrong ones. Sam Usher’s illustrations are a great match too, capturing the joy and bustle of circus life.
This was an exciting and enjoyable read, pitched just right for those who are starting to access books independently. Joe’s clever team of West Highland Terriers were a loveable highlight, and we can’t wait to see what they, and the Shortbread children, get up to next.
Roaring Reads’ Junior Reviewer (age 6) says: “I liked it because there was lots of keeping secrets and things weren’t what they seemed to be. The Granny was really nice. I loved that the kids got to join in with the circus. It was really good that they knew circus skills because it was really useful in their journey. I liked that everybody got a piece of the chocolate cake. Yummy, yum, yum!”
Big Top Mysteries: The Case of the Vanishing Granny, by Alexander McCall Smith, illustrated by Samuel Usher (Barrington Stoke).