Friday, July 08, 2011

Young Adult: A Pocketful of Eyes by Lili Wilkinson

In A Pocketful of Eyes (Allen and Unwin), Bee is spending her summer holidays working in the taxidermy department of the Melbourne Museum of Natural History before beginning Year 12. She has enough problems on her plate, what with her best friend running off with her boyfriend and her geeky mother bringing home a new boyfriend of her own from the Dungeons and Dragons group, when her grumpy boss is found dead in the Museum’s Red Rotunda one morning. The police say it’s suicide, but Bee hasn’t been reading lots of crime fiction from Trixie Belden to PD James for nothing. Can she and the cute but exasperating Toby solve the mystery with nothing but their logic, a few clues and asking “WWPD?” (What would Poirot do?)?

You do need to suspend disbelief before you can enjoy the usual over-the-top Wilkinson humour in this one. How likely is it that the police would declare suicide before so much as moving the body from the museum? What about forensic samples? Why are there no police officers asking questions? Also, Bee and Toby seem to get away with an awful lot of nicking important clues from suspects’ offices without anyone wondering where the documents have disappeared, let alone saying, “Hang on, weren’t those pesky kids here five minutes ago?” But belief is worth suspending.

I think it’s a bit premature to be comparing this author to Agatha Christie, as the back cover quotes does, but A Pocketful of Eyes is still a very entertaining romp through the halls of crime fiction, with red herrings, winks and nods to various writers and I have to admit that, while there were a lot of clues – or, rather, Clues – leaping around yelling, “Hey! Hey! Clue! Look!” at the reader, I didn’t see the rather Poirot-ish conclusion coming.

It was worth reading for the heroine’s personal life alone. With a house full of D& D, a mother who’s on the Playstation duelling Darth Vader and a Celestial Badger, who can blame her for fleeing into the world of logic and reality? At the same time, her mother is quite lovable and there is no doubt of her affection for Bee. There are definite coming-of-age elements in the novel. ◊

Sue Bursztynski lives in Australia, where she works as a teacher-librarian. She has written several books for children and young adults, including Crime Time: Australians Behaving Badly and, most recently, the YA novel Wolfborn. Her blog, The Great Raven, can be found at

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