Saturday, July 25, 2020

#Booky100Keepers Day 83: The Seth Seppi Mysteries by Nicki Thornton (Chicken House Publishing)



Though we pledged not to feature too many chapter books in our #Booky100Keepers list (otherwise we'd need to make it a #Booky1000Keepers list instead) there are just some books, and some authors, who have to feature in this list. 

One such author is Nicki Thornton, the fabulous local writer behind the superb "Seth Seppi" mysteries, comprising three truly brilliant books - "The Last Chance Hotel", "The Bad Luck Lighthouse" and "The Cut Throat Cafe". 

We've known Nicki and her husband Mark for quite some time, being rather shy and embarrased semi-regulars visiting their shop when they owned Mostly Books in Abingdon - but also being delighted to meet them again at science events and of course Nicki's book launches. 

Some people deserve every success. Some people seem born to becoming authors, and that's very much the case with Nicki who makes crafting the most intricate, mysterious and downright page-turningly addictive stories look easy (though of course we know writing is anything but). She really is one of the most lovely authors we've ever been fortunate enough to meet too, humble and kind, and just so great to talk to - as well as immensely talented of course!

One thing worth noting with these books was that each time I got pushed aside - having to patiently wait my turn to read the books because these became something of a 'thing' for C and her mum - their domain into which I should never encroach (which often meant that our reviews of these books ended up a bit more coherent and nicely written - because they came straight from the girls rather than me!) I didn't really mind the wait though, but of course had to swear the pair of them to 'no spoilers' every time. 

So what on earth are these books about? Well we've mentioned Seth Seppi - a would-be magician in training who, along with his cat Nightshade, seems to end up in the wrong place at the right time - quite often right in the midst of some truly nefarious goings-on. 

We're introduced to Seth, slogging away at his parents' hotel as a cook and bottlewasher. His family were magical - with the emphasis on the 'were' as most of them came to sticky ends. Seth's dark past, totally shrouded in mystery, becomes the foundation for each of the three stories as he spends a lot of time trying to uncover his past, while dealing with horrific murders and magical misbehaviour in the here and now. 

Nicki's gift is that she does such a beautiful juggling trick with all the characters in her story. No one is spare to the plot, every little twist and turn is there to mislead and misdirect meaning that by the time you reach the end of each novel you're absolutely gasping for more (and at the moment we're still wondering what's going to happen to Seth next. Will there be a book four? Oh we do dearly hope so. 

She does this against the sort of exquisitely created backdrops to each story - often inspired by real places Nicki has visited - the sort of places that you desperately want to see in your middle grade fiction - places of mystery and magic that are never quite what they seem. 

We alll love books that grip us the way these do, and we genuinely cannot wait to see what Nicki comes up with next. 

It's been lovely to go to the launches, not ust to see the level of local support Nicki gets but also to hear people talking excitedly about the books and the characters. If you love middle grade mysteries, you'll seldom find any finer than these, they're just so blinkin' good!

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