Sunday 28 June 2020

The Chocolate Factory Ghost by David O'Connell, illustrated by Claire Powell

Link to Goodreads

Published: Bloomsbury, 2018


If you fancy an exciting, magical read which is also guaranteed to make your mouth water then this is the tale for you. The Chocolate Factory Ghost whisks you off on a sweet-laden, treasure hunt where the ultimate treasure is the story itself.
Archie McBudge is gobsmacked when he finds out he has inherited the whole of the McBudge estate from his Great-Uncle, including his infamous chocolate factory and Honeystone Hall. But trouble lies ahead when Archie discovers the factory is in danger of  being shut down. As a magical letter leads Archie and his new friends into a spooky and startling mystery, Archie must beat his unknown enemies who are desperate to solve the clues first. 
This story, which is the first in a series of 'Dundoodle Mysteries' has more echoes of the old school Enid Blyton adventure series, The Island of Adventure, The Castle of Adventure etc, than tales such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. There is something so timeless and classic about the book that it instantly conjured my childhood memories of these Blyton adventure mysteries. Yet O'Connell goes above and beyond in his writing by adding in an extra magical layer - a layer which includes flying letters, tiny dragons and winking portraits.
The plot is peppered with delicious treats all the way through; toffee jigsaws, strawberry strings, lavish hot chocolates and the infamous McBudge fudge. But alongside these sweet-tooth temptations O'Connell weaves a mysterious trail that is crackling with intrigue and lurking with sinister spies. Just who does the sneaky mobgoblin belong to and why do they want to stop Archie?
The strength of friendship which develops between the main characters, Archie, Fliss and Billy is also reminiscent of Blyton's tales. The children lead the action but take on adult villains. Rest assured though, there are watchful eyes hovering in the background.
Honeystone Hall and the Scottish village of Dundoodle offers just the right mixture of magical charm and spooky enigma. Secret tunnels, abandoned castles and creepy caves offset the cheery comfort of the McBudge factory and Clootie Dumpling's cafe. The plot has more twists and turns than the secret tunnels, leading the reader and the characters towards a surprising and satisfying ending.
This story would have sat comfortably on the shelves twenty plus years ago and hopefully will still be sitting comfortably on bookshelves in twenty plus years time. It offers a enjoyable, solidly comforting traditional family read and I look forward to curling up with the other books in the 'Dundoodle Mysteries' series in front of a roaring fire...oh and a large box of chocolates.

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