Published by: Firefly Press, 19th January 2023
High concept and full of charm, the second book in Jo Clarke's fun detective series is lying in wait to greet us in January 2023. After thoroughly enjoying Libby and the Parisian Puzzle in March, I pounced on the opportunity for a sneak peek faster than if it was a piece of Scottish shortbread and I loved it in equal measure. After all, who could resist the chicness of a travelling school, mixed with a well-plotted mystery?
Following their adventure in Paris, Libby and her best friend Connie are looking forward to a quiet Christmas at Connie's Scottish home. But when they arrive, the subdued and rather tense atmosphere soon has the girls alarmed. Just what secrets lie within Connie's historical home and what are her parents hiding? One thing's for sure, Libby is determined to get to the bottom of it and, with her aunt's travelling school setting up home in Edinburgh, it's not long before help in on hand to solve the mystery...
What I particularly love about this series is that it cleverly mixes the contemporary with the traditional. Although, the concept of a travelling school feels fresh and unique, there is a definite nod to the mysteries I read as a child: old buildings, secret passages, austere relations and elusive but dangerous villains. Don't be fooled by the light-hearted, fun feel created by Becka Moor's delightful illustrations and Jo Clarke's effortless writing - there is a real edge of danger to this novel as Libby finds out when she takes a tumble. This, for me, really raised the stakes and made me turn the pages even faster.
The theme of food in the novel also harks back to books of my childhood. If you're keen to read descriptions of the food Libby and her friends enjoy in each city they visit, then this could be the series for you. Equally, it's clear that Jo Clarke has chosen to take her travelling school to places she knows well, with each story detailing the geography and popular locations in the area. This all adds to the depth and sensory descriptions in the novel, making it an extra satisfying read.
The novel is incredibly well-plotted. I liked the return of a familiar face and I was kept guessing to the end. I particularly like that Libby doesn't solve every part of the mystery, making her character feel more real and relatable, and the dynamic between Libby and Connie works incredibly well. The series is the perfect side step for fans of the Anisha, Accidental Detective series, the Agent Zaiba Investigates series and is a stepping stone for mystery lovers who are just developing in confidence as readers. It has firm foundations in family, friendships and school, making it adventurous yet cosy and comforting.
A big thanks to NetGalley and Firefly Press for allowing me to read a review copy. Libby and the Highland Heist is available to pre-order.