Friday, 15 January 2021

Friday Barnes: No Escape

Friday Barnes: No Escape by RA Spratt (Puffin) PB RRP $15.99 ISBN 9781760895761

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

The Friday Barnes series has prompted dedicated fanfiction on well-known fandom sites such as Wattpad, which has an estimated 90 million readers, so doubtless there are many fans eager to read RA Spratt’s latest (the ninth) novel.

Friday Barnes, a fifteen-year-old girl detective, returns with a whole new mystery to solve. It’s eleven months later. Imprisoned on terrorism charges, Friday steps out of a juvenile detention centre, a shell of her former self, to be met by her school principal Dr Belcredi, and her best friend, Melanie. She’s thinner and still wearing the same brown cardigan, but she swears she’s never solving mysteries again. But who is she kidding? By the end of the novel, she has found a missing passport, absolved a flight attendant of theft, solved the problem involving gelato additives, fixed a broken hot water system, deduced who had stopped a travelling train, and been offered (and refused) a job working for Interpol. And there’s more…

On a tour of Italy with her peers from Highcrest Academy, Friday becomes involved with helping her Uncle Bernie, head of security at the Uffizi, a famous art gallery whose systems have been compromised and its computer hacked. Wrongly accused a stealing Galileo’s compass and arrested with her former boyfriend, Ian, she (and he) escapes from a police station. The end of the story sees the two of them chasing a family gang responsible for a series of mysterious crimes in art galleries and museums across Europe.

One can see why this book series is so popular: not the least because Friday Barnes is a distinctive – and eccentric – teenager with an enormous intellect, not just for solving problems, but for her extensive knowledge: she can comprehend quantum physics, the trajectory of asteroids and molecular biology, but often cannot understand the behaviour and motives of others. Her brilliant (and often sleepy) friend Melanie is also strongly depicted, providing support when needed. As well as the strongly sketched characters, the book is easy to gallop through as it is well-paced – at times fast-paced (particularly in the penultimate chapter). There’s also a romantic sub-plot which will appeal especially to teenage girls.

No Escape is due out in February 2021, and book ten is also in the offing.

Recommended.

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