Hemlock Jones & The Underground Orphans by Justin Carroll #BookReview #BlogTour

When orphans vanish from their beds across Victorian London, twelve-year-old demystifier Hemlock Jones and her companion, Edward, take the case!

This time, the trail will lead them from their Baker Street home, along lost rivers and into the heart of the city, to face exotic enemies and a charming man with dark plans…

Hemlock Jones & The Underground Orphans is the second of the Hemlock Jones Chronicles, the award-winning series of detective adventures for children and adults.

I'm delighted to be sharing my review of Hemlock Jones & The Underground Orphans today. Many thanks to Justin Carroll and Caroline Vincent from Bits About Books for inviting me to take part in the blog tour and for my advance digital copy of the novel.

It's wonderful to be reunited with the intrepid demystifier, Hemlock Jones and her loyal associate, Edward Whitlock after I so enjoyed their previous adventure, Hemlock Jones & The Angel of Death. Although it's been a couple of years between books, this story takes place very soon after their previous case and Hemlock has been left fuming after not being the credit she deserved for solving that mystery. Worse still, the newspapers have reported that her detested Baker Street rival, the Great Consulting Detective himself, was involved in assisting the police in their investigation. As before the book is narrated by Hemlock’s own version of Watson and he is just as variously impressed, irritated or completely in thrall to her as the doctor is to Sherlock.
The book actually opens in St Jerome’s Orphanage as Mrs Thicke firmly informs the eleven children in her care that it is bedtime. It’s not unusual for somebody living in the poor part of London to see a rat or two but when Sammy is awoken in the night, the squeaking and scurrying is just the start of a sinister plot which involves orphans across London disappearing. Having dismissed a request from a Mr Willougby to look into why a rival company excavating under the city for London’s underground railways has been able to dig far more than his own, Hemlock is thrilled to spot a headline in the newspaper which bears two of her favourite words, ‘Police baffled.’ Before long she and Edward are back in front of Inspector Trelawny, who was the officer in charge of the Angel of Death investigation. This time he agrees to let the pair assist him as they try to discover what has happened to the missing orphans.
What follows is a gripping mystery which I found to be a thoroughly enjoyable read despite this being book for children. In ‘On Three Ways of Writing for Children', C.S. Lewis said that “a children’s story which is enjoyed only by children is a bad children’s story.“ but Justin Carroll should have no such concerns because this terrific novel was a sheer pleasure to read from start to finish. This is a proper mystery, with malevolent villains and an intriguing plot which takes Hemlock and Eddie into parts of London they may never have expected to see. They also find themselves in terrible danger on a number of occasions and it's really quite tense at times to discover how they will escape.
Hemlock is a wonderful protagonist; feisty, resourceful and brave but Edward is just as engaging, even if he is a rather more reluctant hero. I love his self-deprecating humour as he reports on his often clumsy attempts to keep up with his redoubtable friend but though he might be less astute than Hemlock, his courage is perhaps even more admirable because he continues to follow her despite often being terrified. He has good reason to be scared too, the young demystifiers have to face some truly frightening antagonists and anybody who suffers from musophobia may be particularly disturbed by a few passages which vividly describe some close encounters with numerous furry foes.
The sense of time and place throughout is described with an atmospheric authenticity which brings Victorian London to life; whether Hemlock and Edward are pitched into the dark world under the city streets or investigating the more opulent surroundings of some familiar landmarks.  The pacing is excellent throughout too; the tense action scenes are interspersed with moments which might be quieter but are equally as compelling, not least for the dialogue between Hemlock and Edward which is always delightful but perhaps never more so than the times where their growing bond of affectionate friendship is most reinforced.
Set at Christmas this would be a wonderful gift for young readers who enjoy beautifully written stories with a riveting mystery and main characters who are likable without ever being too perfect. Hemlock Jones & The Underground Orphans was an absolute joy to read and I was thrilled by the conclusion which suggests that Hemlock may soon be facing her nemesis again, in what looks to be her most personal case yet. I can't wait to read it!

Hemlock Jones & The Underground Orphans can be purchased from Amazon UK and Amazon US.

There has been a little confusion over dates for this blog tour but check out the poster below for the other bloggers who have also taken part. Also look out for my daughter's review which I shall be sharing next week!

About the Author

Justin Carroll is an author who balances his love of comic books and games with a passion for martial arts and musicals.
Ever since he stopped wanting to be a dinosaur, Justin wanted to be a writer. He graduated with a degree in English Literature and Language from King's College, London in 2004 and now, when not writing, he fritters away his time on all manner of geeky things.
Shortlisted for several international short story competitions, Justin was a finalist in the 2010 British Fantasy Awards with "Careful What You Wish For" (Wyvern Publishing) and placed in the top twenty of the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge twice.
December 2012 saw the birth of Justin Carroll's first novel: Everything's Cool - a dark, psychological thriller.
His second novel, Hemlock Jones & The Angel of Death, is a Young Adult novel and the first in a series featuring Hemlock Jones, the fiery 12-year-old demystifier whose brain easily equals and surpasses that of the famous consulting detective, Sherlock Holmes. "Hemlock Jones & The Angel of Death" won a Silver Medal in the 2017 Wishing Shelf Awards.
Now, Justin has published the second book in the Hemlock Jones Chronicles: Hemlock Jones & The Underground Orphans, perfect for all fans of 10 years and above of adventurous detective mysteries!
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