My favourite British-Pakistani heroine is back and doing what she does best. After successfully solving the case of the missing diamonds, Agent Zaiba is desperate for another real-life crime to solve. And she doesn’t have to wait long…get ready for cup cakes and poison!
The whole community is excited for the Beckley School Summer Fete. It will be full of the usual stalls that families love; Soak the Teacher, Guess the Number of Sweets in the Jar, Hook-a-Duck, Tombola, Coconut Shy, Dog Show and most importantly for Hassan and Ali, the Baking Competition. Zaiba is particularly excited too, as she has the responsibility of organising the Treasure Trail which she has turned into a ‘Detective Trail’ to help train other potential agents.
When Ms. Goremain, the newly appointed headteacher, is poisoned during the ultra competitive Bake-Off, Agent Zaiba must put her detective skills into action. Taking inspiration from the detective stories by her favourite author, Eden Lockett, Agent Zaiba and her team of detectives set about to solve the cupcake mystery. Agent Zaiba has her work cut out though. The crime scene is a mess and there are many suspects who all appear to have motive to harm Ms. Goremain. Someone is out for revenge and no-one is above suspicion.
What a great little mystery this is. It is an easy read and perfect for children just getting into longer detective and mystery reads. The story is accompanied by plenty of lively and imaginative illustrations by Daniela Sosa which are great fun and add additional interest.
The school setting is relatable to readers and makes the mystery feel very much believable. Pakistani culture is woven seamlessly into the narrative which will be welcomed by many readers as they see their own lives portrayed and a lead character who they can really relate to. I really enjoyed the references to the Mehndi party, sari, Eid, henna - which were relevant and provide insights into a culture that will be unfamiliar to many readers. It is also great to see a mixed-race family represented.
In amongst the cupcakes and crime there are messages of teamwork and friendship. It is ultimately Mariam and Zaiba, the two cousins, overcoming their differences and animosity towards each other to work together and becoming friends that helps solve the mystery. I also liked Zaiba’s connection to her deceased mother Ammi, whose notes are scribbled in Zaiba’s collection of Eden Lockett novels and help guide her in her detective work.
In addition to the story there is a lovely bonus section at the end that includes all manner of extras where readers will be able to learn some top detective tips, test their own detective skills, plan their own detective trail and bake Hassan’s famous Cardamom and Lemon Loaf Cake.
Amateur sleuths will have great fun trying to piece together the clues and trying to unravel the mystery. I am very much looking forward to the next case for Agent Zaiba and the Snow Leopard Detective Agency - UK Branch, Agent Zaiba Investigates: The Haunted House.
Recommended for 8+.
With thanks to Netgalley and Stripes Publishing for the review copy.