Dead Man’s Cove, by Lauren St.John
In this page-turning adventure, Lauren St.John transports her readers to the crashing waves and wild, rugged cliffs of Cornwall. (I was instantly gripped – Cornwall is my favourite place in the world.)
Dead Man’s Cove is the first in the Laura Marling series and opens with 11 year old Laura leaving Sylvan Meadows orphanage and going to live with her kind yet mysterious uncle in the Cornish village of St.Ives. There the life of adventure, which Laura has always yearned for, begins.
For the first time in her life, Laura has freedom and independence. However, her peaceful idyll does not last long before Laura finds herself surrounded by mystery. Secrecy confronts her at every turn – from not knowing where her uncle disappears to every night, to not knowing what is happening to Tariq, a boy that Laura believes is being kept as a slave at the local grocery store.
Laura is determined to solve each mystery but little does she realise that her curiosity will lead her to life-threatening situations.
On the front cover of my copy of Dead Man’s Cove is a quote from a Times review: ‘Dead Man’s Cove will delight fans of Enid Blyton.’ I can see why similarities might be made between Enid Blyton’s work and Dead Man’s Cove in so far as adventure and pirate-esque plots are concerned. However, when it comes to description, imagery and character development, Lauren St.John’s writing is a cut above Blyton’s stories.
Whilst reading Dead Man’s Cove, I found myself frequently underlining sentences and folding over corners of pages when there were particularly vivid descriptions or interesting and insightful character development. There are now many Lauren St.John quotes added to my resource bank that I use for teaching creative writing.
Compared to a great deal of other contemporary children’s novels, Dead Man’s Cove has something fresh and wholesome about it (perhaps another reason for links to Enid Blyton). Whilst set in the modern day, Lauren St.John captures something of a good, old-fashioned adventure book which has a timeless feel to it. Laura, the heroine, is sparky, determined and independent and is enough of a tom-boy to appeal to both boy and girl readers alike.
I would recommend Dead Man’s Cove to any young readers who enjoy adventure and mystery. Don’t be surprised to find yourself subsequently hooked to reading the rest of the series.
Themes: Adventure, mystery, family, childhood.