Sandraker by Heide Goody and Iain Grant
Sam of Skegness is back with her preposterous job with DefCon4 in this third volume of her adventures. This time it features a local big house, Candlebroke Hall and its memorable inhabitants, Lady Kiki Lettuces, Antoine and the somewhat threadbare Hugo. As can be guessed from the title, it also features the infamous Odinson clan, self styled modern day Vikings and their brilliantly constructed longship, Sandraker.
While this book picks up themes, characters and settings from the previous two books, it can be read as a standalone as each character is introduced with their defining qualities, which is quite an achievement as it includes a creatively minded junk shop owner, a retired magician and an extremely tall policeman. It also focuses on Hilde Odinson, the brilliant engineer and granddaughter of the founding father of the Viking clan, who Sam is particularly interested in, as are the local police who seem to have caught her at the scene of a burglary red handed. There are the usual occasions of physical challenges, dangerous stunts and complex situations for Sam to cope with, as it soon emerges that life in a stately home is not really stately and never quiet. I was so pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this funny and enjoyable book.
Sam’s latest unusual job is to act as an appropriate adult for Hilde, while she is being questioned in relation to her arrest in the grounds of Candlebroke Hall in possession of a valuable antique drinking horn. Her grandfather Ragar thoughtfully attempts to supply her with an escape kit, realising that as she has a criminal record, she is in deep trouble. Sam is also given the task of inspecting the alarms at the Hall, and she therefore meets Kiki, aging actress and widow of the owner of the house, which is now run by “National Heritage” in the person of Phoebe. It emerges that Kiki is now relegated to living in a small damp and inconvenient apartment and the top of the Hall, where she lives in relative discomfort with her memories of past near glories. Sam has cause to investigate the supposed burglary, and finds that there seems to be more going on than anyone else supposes, as well as many missing items. Antoine, “confidante and personal psychic” has a murky past and an even murkier present, convinced as he is of his personal charms. Sam meanwhile has the unenviable task of arranging the transportation of the huge Sandraker back to its origin in a way, and recruits a surprising workforce. She decides to construct an inventory of the objects in the hall, and has to enlist the bingo playing help of Della and her father, fuelled as always by a unique cocktail or two. This causes some desperate acts to take place, and as is often the case with the Applewhite novels, danger and casualties are only to be expected.
This is a lively, funny and wildly inventive book lovingly created by Goody and Grant. Those fortunate enough to read the other two books will welcome back old favourites, as well as witness the excesses of new ones, including the increasingly deluded Kiki. Sam’s approach to the tasks imposed by her anonymous employers is as funny as always, including a disciplinary session with her new colleague, Doug Junior. This is a lovely if sometimes wince-inducing read in a unique style, and I recommend it to established fans and those yet to discover Sam Applewhite and her unusual job with DefCon4.