The Messenger Bird
his is a race-against-time mystery story in which three children have only a few days to solve a series of complex clues.
It’s narrated by 13-year-old Nathan, whose father, Leon, is arrested by officials from the Ministry of Defence and accused of crimes under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. Leon may face life imprisonment. As he is taken away he manages to tell Nathan that he is innocent and has evidence to prove it, if only Nathan can follow the trail of clues. But he warns him not to tell anyone else, not even his mother and sister.
Ruth Eastham describes well the terror, shock and bewilderment of the family. She shows the close relationship Nathan has with his father and their shared interest in codes and puzzles. “Think literally and laterally”, his father has always said, and Nathan follows this advice. The family has just moved into an elderly relative’s house which is cluttered with World War II memorabilia – and it’s amongst all this that Nathan finds the first clue. It dates from the 1940s. He soon realises that the mystery involves the code-breakers at Bletchley Park and the Enigma machines. There is danger on all sides. Can Nathan trust his father’s solicitor? Is the house bugged? Is the woman who seems to be watching him an official from the MoD or a ghost from the past? Not surprisingly, Nathan cracks under the strain and tells his two best friends about the trail. The three discuss ideas and support each other as the mystery and danger escalate.
I raced through this story. It’s both gripping and emotionally satisfying, and I think anyone aged 10 or older would enjoy it.