Thursday, 11 June 2009

Ringmaster by Julia Golding

Operation Ringmaster seriously compromised. Agent Michael Lock missing in pursuit of suspect. Lock's daughter, Darcie, now in danger. Request her immediate evacuation from Kenya.

Request denied.

Darcie's sheltered expat life among the rich of Nairobi is about to change. Another side of Africa awaits - a world of international smuggling, espionage and corruption. And that's only where the madness begins...


I challenge anyone to read this and not be reminded of the Stormbreaker books. A parent/guardian goes missing, MI6 recruits a teenager, and the SAS get involved to help defeat some criminal mastermind. Ringmaster, I think, is better. It's not sci-fi - rather than smallpox viruses in high-tech computers, the bad guys are involved in drug dealing, attempted coups and terrorism. Darcie gets no high-tech gadgets, but instead has to improvise with whatever she can get hold of (such designer dresses, high heels, and at one point, bagpipes). And I love that Ringmaster has a heroine rather than a hero, and that there are several strong female characters.

Darcie herself is a feisty, funny tomboy. She likes playing football and fencing, and has no interest in being a girly-girl. I liked most of the other characters as well, especially Stingo, her SAS bodyguard. The evil and lecherous bad guys were easy to hate, and Darcie's inevitable victory was very satisfying. There was also a (very) little romance, which I would have liked to see developing further. Maybe in the sequel!

I also liked the setting. It mostly revolved around the ex-pat community of Kenya, meaning that there were characters involved from all over the world. There were also some glimpses of what live for most Kenyans is like, with Darcie uncomfortably aware that her own privileged upbringing was not the norm.

I'd recommend this to anyone who liked the Stormbreaker books, or who thinks the idea of a teenage girl playing the James Bond role sounds interesting! It's good fun, and I can already think of a 14-year-old to whom I want to send my copy.

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