Title: The Howling Hag Mystery
Author: Nicki Thornton
Publisher: Chicken House
Published: 1st March 2022
Synopsis: When there’s a murder in Twinhills and a hag is heard howling at the local inn, Raven Charming realizes she may not be the only secret witch in the village. With the help of boy sleuth Mortimer Scratch, and talking cat Nightshade, she sets out to solve her first magical mystery.
- Best-selling middle-grade author Nicki Thornton, author of The Last Chance Hotel, embarks on a fantastical new mystery series!
- Nicki’s trio of cosy, magical murder mysteries have proved a big hit with readers – now she follows beloved Nightshade, the talking black cat, on a brand-new adventure.
Ever wanted to solve a magical mystery with a new friend and a cat with a nose for magic and mystery? Well, then The Howling Hag Mystery is for you! Join Raven Charming, Morti Scratch, and detective-cat, Nightshade as they investigate strange goings on in Twinhills – curses, spells, and whispers about an old witch, known as the Howling Hag. Raven and Morti are determined to solve the mystery, and Nightshade is there to help them, and to help Raven find her magic. In the aftermath of her grandmother’s death, Raven is determined to find out if she has magic like her mother and sister. Nightshade is along for the ride, helping to solve the mystery and watching over Raven. Will they find out who is behind the Howling Hag mystery?
What a wonderful book, filled with fun and magic, and a talking cat who takes turns narrating the story with Raven, and together, they work to find out who the Howling Hag is – and why the legend is being used to cover up what is really going on – if there is anything more to the mystery. Soon though, the class mascot, Mr Pickles, is murdered, and the teachers at the school start behaving strangely – as does everyone. Raven lines up all she knows about her classmates, what is happening, and Twinhills, with some very clever red herrings as she seeks to uncover the truth.
As in most crime novels, the red herrings that come in later in the story cleverly distract us from what is really going on and the real prankster and criminal, making us think certain characters are innocent bystanders who have been caught up in the crimes and mystery. I love the way this has been executed – it’s brilliantly crafted, bringing magic, mystery, crime, detectives, and talking cats – many of my favourite things – together to create a fun and engaging story that kids aged nine and older will love. I also love books like this where everything is wrapped up comfortingly and reassuringly, where kids can have fun at the end, and where the story has a sense of finality, which is a really good thing in an uncertain world, where things don’t always work out for everyone.
I feel like Nightshade is a recurring character who links books in a series but each book is its own story, so it doesn’t matter what order you read them in. I didn’t see any hints at a previous story, so it’s a great book to pick up and be introduced to Nightshade, who is another fabulous animal detective in a really fun genre that can appeal to a wide range of readers, and that can be executed in a variety of ways to appeal to many different readers. I loved this book, and hope that others enjoy it too.