Sunday, 16 March 2008

Review: JOSEPHINE - Mystery On The Moor

Mystery On The Moor is the 6th book in the series, and is the hardest to find in the series, even out of all of Josephine's books. It was first published in 1984. It is illustrated by Chris Rothero.

The blurb reads:-

The fear of rabies haunts the moor when the vets' children, Chris and Sukey, meet their friends for the holidays, for several cases of the killer disease have been reported. The holidays are also overshadowed by disagreeable Mr Bates, who clearly wants no one near his establishment high on the moor. What is it he's hiding? And what is in the big boxes he carries to the deserted quarry?

As you may have guessed, the Burnetts which were a central part of the series (and probably due to it's success) are no longer here. The main focus is instead on Chris and Sukey, two characters we met in the previous book. However, the Hamiltons and the Jacksons are still there, which gives some sort of familiarity. The Burnetts are now confined to a short bit which reads:-

We turned right and passed Rosebank where the Burnetts live.

'Why did they all go away suddenly?' I asked, jogging alongside Huw.

'My mother said Dr Burnett was ill. Run down, she said, through constant overwork. He kept catching his patients' illnesses. He's a very obliging doctor, always rushing out in the middle of the night. Anyway, he's got to have a month's holiday so the whole family have gone to Italy.'

Incidentally, the sudden change of characters is not Josephine's fault, instead the publishers Hodder & Stoughton practically forced her to change them, as they felt the Burnetts were getting too old. This is not the first time that the publishers have interfered with the books: All Change/The Hidden Horse has had words omitted (depending on the publisher it varies) and Josephine was forbidden to publish any more Noel and Henry books after Pony Club Camp.

It is curious that Josephine chose to use rabies as a premise for this book, as in the UK we have had not had rabies since 1922 (however, the last human death was 1902), which was 2 years prior to her being born. I do think that foot and mouth disease may have been a better choice, as in 2007 we had it in the UK. The previous outbreak was in 2001 and prior to that 1967. Although Foot and Mouth disease does not affect horses, however they would have been told to keep off the moor to prevent spread of the disease.

Anyway, for me it is disappointing. The quality of the writing is equally high when compared to rest of the series; however the sudden change of characters kinda of disrupts the flow. I feel that had Josephine slowly worked the Burnett characters out during the book then maybe the book would have been better. I am sure that I am not the only person to feel that way, the extreme elusiveness of this book and the almost equally hard to find next book Suspicion Stalks the Moor proves something.

If you replaced the Chris and Sukey (why the foreign sounding girl's name I wonder? Maybe if the boy had been named something equally exotic then it wouldnt be so bad. They are brother and sister after all. It would have been better sounding if it was named Sarah or something like that. I am not xenophobic, just it kind of disrupts the flow, when all the other characters in the series have English sounding names).

haffyfan has another review of this book on here blog, which is here . (Word of warning: it does give the ending away) A bit I strongly disagree with is this bit:-

"Burnetts absence was due to their mother being ill and needing to recover in a warmer climate"

As per above statement it was their father, and anyway I got the impression it was a holiday to recover. If he had been at home he would have been strongly tempted to go and help people. Due to it being a remote community, then people would also be knocking on their door. Meaning that he had got no rest.

Next week: the final in the series, Suspicion Stalks The Moor.