Fox Investigates: A Whiff Of Mystery by Adam Frost


I had so much choice with this one, I got a digital proof from NetGalley and a physical copy from Stripes direct. I'm glad I did get both, because this is one of the times where print stomps all over digital, but we'll come to that in a bit. If we play judge a book by it's cover you get debonair fox in Venice solving crime, some sort of cross between James Bond and Sherlock Holmes... Actually, by the end of the book that wasn't far off what I thought of Wily, there's maybe just a hint of Inspector Clouseau.

To the story... Wily Fox is hired to help protect the next big scent in the perfume world after the creator has a mysterious break in. Wily and his suspects attend the unveiling of Smellissino, but they are incapacitated when the beautiful smelling perfume is swapped for something much more pungent. This time the robbers get away with a valuable and potentially dangerous item. Wily must set off for Venice to try and obtain the first piece of the puzzle.

Jet setting to Pisa and China, Wily runs into members of PSSST [Police Spy, Sleuth and Snoop Taskforce] who are in search of their own villains, but is it just coincidence that they keep meeting in the most unlikely of places?

There are lots of lovely little throw ins. "The newspaper describes her as "formidable" - in other words "completely terrifying."" The idea that kids now know what that word means and will start using it randomly in conversation brings a smile. The acronym PSSST is great, very secretive sounding! Albert has his gadgets and it was nice to have a drone delivering the clues as it makes a good link to things readers may have heard about. As well as these things, and some fantastic geographical locations, there are plenty of things that would get kids researching.

Everyone enjoys a good Q/James Bond gadget, and I'm willing to suspend some belief on how far technology has come... steam powered spring loaded cybernetic stilts... now, I can go with spring loaded cybernetic, but it seems a bit far fetched that you could make stilts steam powered! [Wow, when did I get so old that I stopped believing in fun stuff?]

My only other niggle...

... Wily Fox is hired by Adolfo Aroma to work with Paulo Polecat, and his first task is to watch the suspects, Bianca Badger, Joey Weasel and Rou Red Panda...

... I'm a bit sad that the names are all over the place. I don't honestly know if kids would care about the difference, but alliteration always works well [just look at Marvel!]. Wily Fox I get. Adolfo Aroma makes perfume so that makes sense. Joey Weasel was a New York gangster... although I think we're stereotyping there a bit!

Anyway, alliteration aside, I really enjoyed this one. It's a fun little story with amusing characters. Being prejudice as I mentioned earlier, you should buy the paperback edition of this when it's published in September to get the full effect of the illustrations. I was a bit sceptical about black pages with white writing on, but in the context of the story they're really effective. This is a great story to read with your kids, and a lovely chapter book for them to read on their own.

[I couldn't really work this into the review properly, so it gets a footnote. I remembered a vague saying with a polecat in it, so went to Google to see what I could find. "Nervous as a polecat in a perfume parlour." Quite apt for this story!]

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