Ghostly guinea pigs and pampered poodles

Step aside Sherlock. Moontrug has been on the hunt for female detectives recently – and after discovering Rachel Hamilton’s Know-All from The Case of the Exploding Loo – she’s now uncovered another brilliant investigator: Kate Pankhurst’s fabulous Mariella Mystery.  Sherlock may have had speckled bands and engineer’s thumbs to contend with but Mariella has ghostly guinea pigs and pampered poodles. You gotta love an alliterative mystery…

Mariella Mystery

Whilst most of the grown up world were sitting in offices last Tuesday pondering things like tax returns and rent increases, Moontrug was trundling through Wales on a bookish adventure – to Hay festival. There she met the talented Kate Pankhurst – and her GIANT ghostly guinea pig (big fan of him). Kate admitted she wanted to be an illustrator when she was only 10 years old: ‘I loved the stories that used to fly around school – of ghosts, rumours and unexplained events – so perhaps it’s fitting that I ended up writing a detective series… I start my stories with a doodle (in this case it was of a curly-haired girl holding a magnifying glass) and then the story comes from there.’

photoKate Pankhurst and Moontrug with the ghostly guinea pig (Mr Darcy)

What makes Pankhurst such a fantastic writer is the way she combines a plot full of twists and turns with super funny ideas. Cue mysteries about ghostly guinea pigs and pampered poodles… And her characterisation of Mariella is superb – I am definitely asking Father Christmas for Mariella’s Super Sleuth Handbook this year. As soon as Pankhurst explained that the handbook showcased the very best equipment for super sleuths, she had kids jumping up and down in their seats inventing gadgets: shirt buttons that record things and special binoculars that see inside cakes…


Mariella Mystery may only be 9 years old but she’s able to solve the most mysterious mysteries and perplexing problems, even before breakfast, as she declares at the start of her first case case: ‘I’ve only been up for forty-five minutes and I’ve already solved a mystery. I’m definitely getting better at being a detective.’ When her teacher, Miss Crumble, spots the ghost of her pet guinea pig (the wonderfully named Mr Darcy) in her back garden, she doesn’t know what to think. But Mariella knows it’s up to her and her fellow Mystery Girls to get to the bottom of The Case of the Ghostly Guinea Pig. And so Mariella’s career as a detective is born…


Pankhurst had the kids at Hay drawing their own Mariellas (using a volunteer child dressed up in a detective-y overcoat and sporting a fake moustache), admitting that sometimes she illustrates Mariella wearing clothes she loves, like stripy tights and converse trainers. Given the weather at Hay that day, I felt Mariella could have done with a pair of wellies and a high-tech video-camera-ed umbrella. The Mariella Mystery books are exciting and funny books for 7+ years and Moontrug is so excited about getting stuck into the first one – before following up with poodles, hair scares and spaghetti yettis…





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  1. Pingback: ‘Violet and the Pearl of the Orient’ by Harriet Whitehorn | moontrug

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