Saturday 31 January 2015

Frankie Fox, Girl Spy: READY, SET, SPY

Frankie Fox, Girl Spy: READY, SET, SPY by Yvette Poshoglian
PB RRP $12.99
ISBN: 9780734415684
Reviewed by Hilary Smillie

Eleven-year-old Francesca (Frankie) Fox, motherless but with a millionaire Dad, has a boathouse for her room which she shares with Boss, her West Highland Terrier. It is located on a cliff 178 steps down from the main house called Griffin where Hanna the housekeeper keeps house for her Dad and cooks for the three of them when her Dad is home. He is a brilliant scientist and runs a secret set of labs on Fortress Island which Frankie can see from the boathouse window. Frankie's Dad protects his property with an electric fence, and is concerned that his wealth and scientific knowledge could make him a target of an evil group called the Alliance, a threat to the whole world.

Frankie has always wanted to be a spy. She is studying The Spy's Handbook which belonged to her Dad and pours over it every free moment. There is a code scribbled inside it that she needs to decipher and so far has been stumped. Unusual things have been happening. Frankie thinks she is being watched and her room has definitely been searched. Later, when kayaking, her boat is almost overturned by a woman in a kayak who she recalls later was the stand-in bus driver on the school bus. Also, strange underwater lights are puzzling.

James Jensen (JJ), a new neighbour but previous resident returned from Iceland who attends Frankie's school, arranges to kayak across to Fortress Island with Frankie and Boss. The two kayakers set off one evening and once again Frankie sees the underwater lights. When they land on the island, they come across soldiers and are captured. Their captors are agents for Griffin and are fighting the Alliance. When Frankie is told her father has been kidnapped by the Alliance, she is amazed to discover both JJ and herself have been in training as Griffin spies, and as things fall into place, she knows whatever she has to do to rescue her father, she will do it. It is vital she deciphers the code in her spy handbook and completes Mission Icefall. And Boss and JJ have a role to play, too.

Yvette Poshoglian, a Sydney-based high school teacher involved in creative writing workshops, has created an exciting story with plenty of intrigue and drama. She uses retrospect cleverly to keep the momentum charged and pacey. Each chapter is headed by a quote from The Spy's Handbook which alludes to the content and increases interest.

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