Black Cats and Butlers by Janine Beacham
Twelve year old Rose Raventhorpe is compelled to investigate a string of murdered butlers after the death of her own beloved butler, Argyle. Set in a fictional imagining of York, England, in the late nineteenth century, Black Cats and Butlers is the first in a new series and a sometimes far-fetched murder mystery replete with superstitious, swordfighting manservants, a secret labyrinth and a nasty band of bodysnatchers.
This novel has a strong cast of characters led by brave, resourceful Rose and her melodramatic friend Emily. They are given to romantic leanings and gothic fantasy, offsetting the genuinely atmospheric Yorke and its mysterious inhabitants. At times a little grim for a reader unfamiliar with crime fiction, this novel is nonetheless lots of fun, particularly when it concentrates on the workings of the secret society of crime fighting butlers who are guardians of the city. Beacham tackles the politics of class and gender well in this story, which plays out ‘upstairs–downstairs’ tensions and the difficulty faced by female characters who wish to be taken seriously in a man’s world.
Fans of Lemony Snicket and Robin Stevens will be keen for the next installment. I recommend for it for readers 9 and up.
Georgia Delaney works as a bookseller at Readings Carlton.