The Highland Falcon Thief by M. G. Leonard, Sam Sedgman & Elisa Paganelli

The Highland Falcon Thief is an action packed adventure which takes us on a steam train journey around the British Isles. Full of intrigue, mystery and fascinating facts about steam trains, it’s also a story about friendship and bravery as two eleven year olds team up to discover the identity of a thief when jewels go missing during the journey.

The Story: Harrison Beck (Hal) joins his Uncle Nathaniel, a travel writer, on The Highland Falcon’s final journey, a journey which is also being taken by a cast of characters who are noble, rich or who have previously travelled on the train. But when jewellery goes missing, it becomes obvious that somebody on board is a thief. While looking for clues Hal discovers that there is also a stowaway on the train, Lenny, who is extremely knowledgeable about The Highland Falcon. Can Hal and Lenny solve the mystery of the missing jewellery and discover the identity of the thief before the train returns to Kings Cross?

The journey only lasts for four days but they are packed with intrigue, action and high drama. Hal doesn’t want to leave his mum, who is about to give birth, and thinks that being stuck on a train will be boring. But things improve when he discovers that Lady Lansbury’s five Samoyeds and Lenny are also making the same journey.

When The Highland Falcon Thief strikes the speculation begins as to the identity of the culprit. A film star, a retired train steward, one of the wealthiest women in England, a baron and a royal photographer are all passengers on the train. Hal is a talented artist and as he sketches people and events his eye for detail leads him to pick up on clues as they travel.

The Highland Falcon has a library and a royal carriage as well as a dining car and sleeping compartments. Lenny’s familiarity with the train helps her and Hal access areas that are usually out of bounds and we were fascinated by the chapter where train driver, Mr. Singh, and the train’s fireman, Joey, explain how a steam engine works and how it takes in water, the attention to detail in the writing is amazing. 

The journey starts at Kings Cross and takes a circular route around the country including a stop at Balmoral Castle where a newly married Prince joins the train with his wife. Detectives join the train for the return journey and it’s a race against time to solve the mystery before the train gets back to London.

As well as being highly entertaining, the facts about steam trains and the introduction of prominent railway bridges and towns add an educational dimension to the story. A classroom wall map where children could follow The Highland Falcon’s journey would be a fun geography activity and the story could also lead into research about steam trains and their history.

Samoyeds, secrets, Scottish scenery and the page turning action in The Highland Falcon Thief makes it a really compelling read, it is a really well researched story which includes fascinating facts and insights into train travel. Events are woven tightly together and the story is so full of twists and turns that we read it a second time to pick up on clues that we missed on the first read. The crime is really ingenious and we were kept guessing right up until the thief’s identity was revealed…

Age Range: 9+

Authors: M. G. Leonard / Sam Sedgman / Illustrator: Elisa Paganelli

Thank you to Pan Macmillan for sending a review copy of The Highland Falcon. We’re excited to hear that it is the first book in a new series.

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