‘The Dangerous Discoveries of Gully Potchard’ – Julia Lee

Moontrug has spent most of August ‘discovering’ things: the Fairy Pools on Skye, hidden waterfalls at Smoo Cave, seal colonies off Dunvegan Castle. And so it seemed only fitting to read Julia Lee’s latest 8-12s book, The Dangerous Discoveries of Gully Potchard, while doing all of this exploring… Having got to know Less-STAH, theatrical Whitby and the ‘all-seeing’ Gully in The Mysterious Misadventures of Clemency Wrigglesworth, Moontrug was excited to learn Lee had more adventures in store for these characters in her next book…

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Gully Potchard never meant to cause any trouble. He’s just a ordinary sort of boy… at least that’s what he thinks. But when an old acquaintance comes knocking, it isn’t long before Gully is tangled up in a mess of mischief and skulduggery. Cats and dogs go astray, a child is kidnapped, and ransom notes are delivered to the wrong people! But as a storm rages and a fire blazes, Gully discovers that he has an extraordinary skill that might just make him an unlikely hero after all…

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The book opens with a punch as bully Nathan Boldree pressures Gully into his ‘scheme.’ Nathan is brilliantly described: ‘his face was as impassive as a slab of raw beefsteak’ and makes an impressive driving force of evil against the wonderfully likeable Gully. Throw in the odious Randolph (Moontrug could have punched him when he set fire to Darwin’s Origin of Species and ranted about how Agnes was an ‘insult to girlhood’), and it’s a proper cast of dislikable gents. On the other hand, Gully’s extended family are a jumble of fabulously named, mildly bonkers characters: ‘All the Marvel children were named after the places where they were born; it was dear Aunt Hetty’s way of keeping track.’ From Dorchester Barnicott who sits ‘slack as a landslipped mountain’ to the gorgeously clumsy Leicester, Lee has created a Dickensian cast of characters, brimming with colour and life. 

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Alongside Gully’s roller-coaster of ransom notes and kidnapped dogs, you have Agnes’ story. Bullied by her brother and confined indoors by her mother, she finally breaks away to discover the world around her and the wonderful people inside it. Like Impey, Gully’s cousin, who is UTTERLY fabulous and hilariously funny. When Mrs Leaf fortells her future and says: ‘You are a loving and beloved child. Countless adventures lie ahead, wonderful journeys, and great success’, it is only fitting that Impey replies with a nod ‘as if that was only to be expected.’ And she is, without doubt, the best mad Ophelia Moontrug has ever seen: ‘Impey rolled her eyes back in her head. She let out a gurgle, then a groan. The groan sounded too much like pain…She turned the groan into a parrot shriek.’ The Dangerous Discoveries of Gully Potchard is a fabulous story, bursting with exciting and original characters AND a cracking plot – well worth a read…

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