The Highland Falcon Thief – M.G.Leonard and Sam Sedgman

There are few if any children’s books where the entire story takes place on a train, granted there are plenty where trains play a vital part in the story – The Railway Children (Edith Nesbit) being one timeless example and more recently I think highly of The Skylarks War (Hilary McKay) – but none that I can think of where the entire adventure takes place within the confines of a train, and as a fan of The Polar Express (Chris Van Allsburg) I was ecstatic to get my hands on the latest title to feature author M.G.Leonard in collaboration with Sam Sedgman, Adventures on Trains The Highland Falcon Thief.

The story is a whodunit style adventure aboard the Highland Falcon, an utterly stunning steam train that has the cream of society travelling on board including members of the royal family as it completes its final journey and the passengers wish it a fond farewell. All of the passengers are somehow linked to the trains creation, existence or legacy with the exception of Hal who has embarked on the journey with his Uncle Nat, his guardian while his mum stays in hospital for the imminent birth of her baby. Uncle Nat is a travel writer, and writes about his journeys onboard trains as his work, and having travelled on the Highland Falcon before was keen to have one last experience on the iconic train.

When the train is mid journey a passenger declares an extremely expensive and irreplaceable piece of jewellery has gone missing and Hal decides to investigate, and before long finds himself being helped by a girl of similar age to him called Lenny, that has stowed away onboard the train in an attempt to be nearer to her dad who is the driver of the train. Hal has an advantage over the other passengers as they are unaware that Lenny is onboard, and as she continues to hide amongst them is able to pick up details and information that could be useful. The more the pair uncover the more suspicious they become of the other passengers onboard.

This book has Murder on the Orient Express (Agatha Christie) vibes, and is undoubtedly a modern day classic with its immersive content and appeal, timeless feel to the adventure, and that it is so well written you can feel the way of the train carriage below your feet and hear the clickety clack in the distance too. There is also a character within the book called Lady Lansbury that I feel highly worthy of a mention here in my blog as she has to be a nod to the iconic Angela Lansbury, right? as that was who i pictured whenever she is mentioned, which ties in nicely given she played a part in a film of a different Agatha Christie title (Death on the Nile – based entirely onboard a boat on the River Nile) and was legendary in the cult tv series Murder She Wrote where she would investigate all sorts of crimes and disappearances. If this referencing is a subtle attempt at keeping her legacy alive it worked, and I bet there are teachers reading this book to their classes in the near future that will also smile each time she is mentioned (and recall the MSW theme music!).

As a big fan of M.G.Leonard through her Beetle Boy series (if you have been living under a rock and somehow missed the trilogy see here for information) I had no doubt that this book would be a brilliant read, but her collaboration with debut author and train enthusiast Sam Sedgman takes it to a level beyond brilliant, it is phenomenal! As the reader you immediately feel right at home onboard the train amongst Hal, Uncle Nat and the other passengers with an easiness indicative of a high quality text that does not scrimp on detail, ensuring that by the very end you feel as well travelled as you would had you have been lucky enough to be chosen for that journey in person.

You do not guess or assume the identity of the thief early on, and when you do start to get an inkling that one of the people onboard is responsible for the disappearance of the jewellery you quite quickly start to question that decision as more of the story develops – which is brilliant of course, nobody wants to know how the story will end early on. Did I guess who was the true culprit onboard before they were revealed – Yes – but not only could that be a generational thing that goes completely over the heads of the intended readers but it still meant I was looking for validation in my chosen criminal, and of course to see how they are caught or whether they get away with it, and how the story concludes for Hal and his Uncle.

Adventures on Trains is the start of a whole new series from this highly creative duo that readers will want to read time and time again as they cherish the experience they have through reading this brilliant addition to the world of children’s literature. The book features stunning illustrations from Elisa Paganelli, who also previously illustrated The House with Chicken Legs (Sophie Anderson) among many titles she has put her hand to, which also has stunning illustrative content that accompanies the text within the book perfectly, which is exactly the case within this book too. From blueprints of the trains layout to the engine room and so much more, Elisa really helps lift the story off the page and into the readers imagination with her incredibly detailed work.

It is great to see on Twitter the journeys Maya and Sam have been taking and the locomotive related research they have done for future titles in the series which I cannot wait to hear more about and get my hands on as one thing is for sure, it will be an unforgettable read!

Adventures on Trains The Highland Falcon Thief is published by Macmillan Children’s Books, and is available from 30th January 2020.

2 thoughts on “The Highland Falcon Thief – M.G.Leonard and Sam Sedgman

  1. I am awaiting my copy of this in work and have been eagerly dashing up every time the postman comes for weeks but still no sign – hopefully it’ll appear this week! So excited to read it!


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