The Graveyard Riddle is the follow-up to the award-winning The Goldfish Boy. I’m ashamed to say that The Goldfish Boy has been sat on my ‘To Be Read’ pile for way too long. I spotted The Graveyard Riddle in the new releases section of my local library and couldn’t resist picking it up. Whilst references are made to events in The Goldfish Boy, The Graveyard Riddle works perfectly well as a stand-alone so I found myself diving straight into it (I will be quickly reaching for The Goldfish Boy after writing this review such is the brilliance of Lisa Thompson’s storytelling).
When Melody discovers an old abandoned ‘plague house’ in the graveyard she did not expect to find a rather disheveled boy hiding within the darkness. Hal claims to be an undercover spy staking-out a dangerous criminal. He is in desperate need of Melody’s help and he provides the perfect distraction from the other unwelcome events in her life.
In need of help to complete her part of the mission, she confides in Matthew and Jake. They immediately have their doubts and are sure that Hal is not who he says he is. Can a child really be working for secret spy agency MI8 and is a notorious criminal lurking amongst the tombstones? Melody is convinced by Hal’s story but Matthew and Jake are determined to find out for themselves…
The Graveyard Riddle is an intriguing mystery read and children will love trying to solve the riddles and working alongside Melody to work out exactly what is going on. This is no easy task with twists and turns in plentiful supply, actions having consequences and emotions running high. Secrets are kept, lies are revealed and truths are told - there are many important lessons here as things quickly spiral with everyone playing their own game. Every revelation snowballs into another with things becoming ever more confusing and challenging for everyone involved.
Melody is a great character with a lot going on in her life. She is losing her best friend - Matthew’s blossoming friendship with Jake is making him act ‘weird’. Her dad has upped and left, leaving her as one half of Team MC - but when her mum secretly puts the house up for sale this relationship quickly becomes strained. Feeling lonely and confused she finds comfort, friendship and a purpose in the mysterious Hal. But like everyone currently in her life, it seems that he could let her down too. Despite all of this, Melody is determined to see the best in people. She has a great sense of right and wrong, takes things to heart and is so kind-hearted, doing whatever she can to help others.
Thompson has a wonderful skill of including young characters who are dealing with real issues. There are so many big and relatable issues at play within the narrative and it is wonderful that children will be able to see themselves and the challenges that they may well be experiencing represented. Matthew is having therapy for OCD, Jake is suffering emotional bullying from an adult - in this case a teacher who lives in the same street as him, Melody is coming to terms with a dad who has walked out of her life and Hal has been neglected as a child. Powerful and complex issues these are but with Thompson’s expert hand and lightness of touch to guide the reader nothing ever feels overwhelming.
Underneath it all are children wanting to feel loved, in need of attention, to feel valued and wanting to be noticed. Even the dog - Wilson - wants to be loved and noticed. And by the end, Thompson has everyone feeling very loved and very valued.
A gripping and beautifully written read with bags of heart. I’m off to read The Goldfish Boy.
Recommended for 9+.