The girl who saw too much

The girl who saw too much

Best known for the 11 Teenage Worrier Pocket Guide books and the Trixie Tempest series, Ros Asquith has a regular cartoon feature to her credit in The Guardian, too. The one-time graphic designer and mural painter has also been a theatre critic. Apart from her own books, Asquith has illustrated books for authors such as Dick King-Smith (Dirty Gertie Mackintosh), Anne Fine (Charm School) and Francesca Simon (Helping Hercules).

The Girl Writer stories are about a budding author, Cordelia Arbuthnot. This 12-year-old has a passion for writing fiction and draws inspiration from real-life events. She wants to follow in the footsteps of her aunt—the celebrated author Laura Hunt.

Besides studying up on global warming and the environment, Cordelia’s head is always buzzing with ideas for stories. In this book, she is working on a spy story—The Girl with the Golden Pun—with Jane Bond as the central character. Anything in everyday life that strikes as material worthy enough for her story is picked up—including her classmate Vladimir Vyshinsky, the Russian boy who is immediately labelled Vlad the Lad and The Evil Force.

The poisoning of the neighbourhood lake and a mysterious explosion in Vladimir’s block of flats are reasons enough for Cordelia’s imagination to take flight. She suspects that Vlad is out to poison the town’s water supply. Cordelia enlists the help of her neighbour Callum to raid Vlad’s house and discovers photographs of the major water bodies in the state—including one in Buckingham Palace. “Even the Queen is not safe," both imagine.

Cordelia’s suspicion turns to certainty on a school trip to the lonely Norfolk marshes, where she spies Vlad collecting some algae. The only problem is that Vlad is very popular with the girls of her school and that Viola, her best friend, thinks she is in love with the Russian boy. Nobody, thinks Cordelia, would believe her without irrefutable evidence about Vladimir’s crimes.

Vladimir, on the other hand, is just interested in chemistry.

As Cordelia, helped by her staunch friend Callum, “gathers evidence" against Vladimir, her spy story shapes up very well. In the story, Jane Bond—sister of James, complete with a boss called Z and fancy gadgets—fights Aurelia, a bikini-clad temptress with her retinue of young slaves. Cordelia and Callum try to prevent a catastrophe of their own. As both stories race towards unexpected climaxes, Cordelia and Callum are in for a big surprise.

Spies and Lies is the third book in this series. The other two are Castles and Catastrophes and Sleuths and TruthsHumour—and irreverent humour at that—plays a major role in most of Asquith’s novels. Light and easy, Girl Writer is no exception.

The writer is the editor of Heek, a children’s magazine.

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