The Sign of the Black Dagger

Joan Lingard leapt into my field of vision with her  Kevin and Sadie series about life and love across the barricades in Northern Ireland. From that, you can tell that she has been writing award winning books for children for many years now, following the publication of her first adult novel in 1963. Many of her books are inspired by her own experiences, or those of family members. Born in Edinburgh and now living in Edinburgh after growing up in Belfast, she has set The Sign of the Black Dagger in the Royal Mile. The story alternates between the present day and 1796, as we find four children living with the consequences of their fathers’s debts.

Each story is fascinating in itself but they are cleverly interwoven in a demonstration of history and character which subtly portrays the fear, vulnerability and optimism that children live with. The present day story is told from the viewpoints of twins Lucy and Will and the historical story is told through the diary of their ancestors, also twins, William and Louisa, which Lucy and Will find hidden in their house, on the day their father goes missing.

If this sounds a bit contrived, well maybe it is, but it still works and Joan is professional enough to ensure that the pace of both stories moves in such a way that we don’t care. We just want to see how it works out – and the solution is not what I was expecting!

I don’t think Joan has ever created a character you couldn’t believe in and her masterful storytelling makes this a fascinating and satisfying book, in ever sense, A Good Read.

The Sign of the Black Dagger (Kelpies) is available in paperback and kindle editions from Amazon

Published by

Suse Coon

Suse Coon started life training to be an architect but ended up as a fashion buyer then civil servant. After some time out to bring up her family of three, she returned to what had been a hobby and entered the field of freelance journalism. After becoming regional correspondent, then editor of the orienteering magazine CompassSport, she formed Pages Editorial & Publishing Services. In this guise, West Lothian Life was launched, while Suse maintained a level of freelancing and wrote the award winning children's novel Richard's Castle. In 1999, Suse bought over CompassSport and found her time taken up pretty well exclusively with the two magazines. In 2004, West Lothian Life was expanded to form Lothian Life, however, the workload was too great. In 2006, CompassSport was sold and Suse concentrated on the web version of Lothian Life. Her hobbies include gardening, orienteering, sea kayaking and Tai Chi.

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