Friday Barnes: Girl Detective
Friday Barnes: Under Suspicion
R. A. Spratt
Random House, 2014
pbk., 250+ pages; RRP $A15.99
Friday Barnes is the daughter of two highly-intelligent, eccentric physicists who are so disconnected from her upbringing that they called her Friday even though she was born on a Thursday. She did have four siblings, all much older than her being born during the four-and-a-half years their mother had allocated for the task. Friday was not scheduled and her birth was fitted in around a lecture her mother had to give in Switzerland. Eleven years later, Friday had largely raised herself and she was happy with that. Her greatest wish was to be unnoticed because you could do so much more that way like eating a whole block of chocolate at once without it being taken off you. Unfortunately, it also means that you do not develop very good social skills particularly if you spend your time reading scientific tomes and educating yourself beyond the realms of anything a school could offer.
However, as well as the non-fiction her parents library consisted of, Friday had a penchant for detective novels because “being a detective allowed a person a licence to behave very eccentrically indeed” and she had honed her powers of observation and logical thought over the years. But the time has now come for Friday to go to high school and given her parents haven’t even realised she is no longer in preschool, it was up to her to sort it. She would have preferred not to go at all because she saw it as being all about “bullying, dodge ball and having to find a date for the prom” but the government was insistent that she do. She tried to compromise by applying for university and passed the exam to study medicine but was knocked back on her age.
So rejecting the idea of the Foreign Legion, the Peace Corps and being smuggled out of the country by people traffickers, after helping her ex-cop, private investigator Uncle Bernie solve a case she finds herself with the means to send herself to Highcrest Academy the best and most expensive boarding school in the whole country. Her intention is to stay under the radar, do what she has to do and leave. But things do not work out that way. Right from the start, her nondescript self-imposed uniform of brown cardigans, grey t-shirts and blue jeans makes her stand out among the fashion parade that is the elite, wealthy students who also attend and being knocked down in the carpark on the first day doesn’t help either. Nor does being the brightest student in the entire school, being labelled “scholarship girl” by the school bully and being unable to help herself being able to point out the flaws and inaccuracies in the conversation and presentations of others. Antagonising the handsome, previously-smartest student Ian Wainscott adds to her woes, particularly when her roommate, the not-so-bright Melanie insists there is a romance blooming, something that Friday scoffs at. But their paths have already been inextricably interwoven…
More and more, she is called on to solve “mysteries” as her reputation spreads, and eventually the headmaster enlists her to solve the mystery of the strange monster roaming in the school swamp and frightening the living daylights out of everyone.
Friday Barnes in a new series from the author of Nanny Piggins and it is one that will appeal to independent girl readers who want some substance to their reading. Friday is a likeable character who will appeal to many who are not necessarily the high-fliers in the school. Even though they may not be as smart as Friday, they will read about themselves in this series and thoroughly enjoy it. Girl Detective ends on a cliff-hanger, as, having solved the mystery of the swamp monster, Friday herself is then arrested and readers have to discover why in Under Suspicion which has just been released. Tantalising that also concludes with “To be continued…” suggesting that there will be more episodes in this series that will leave readers waiting on them.
A worthy addition to the collection for girls on the brink of starting their own secondary school adventure.