The Book Case
PublisherDavid Fickling Books
Date Published05 April 2018
Price£ 10.99

The Book Case

by Dave Shelton

After an unfortunate incident at her old school, Daphne is offered a scholarship to St Rita’s School for Spirited Girls where she’s soon plunged into the mystery of a missing schoolgirl and a robbery at the local bank.


After an unfortunate incident at her old school, Daphne Blakeway’s parents jump at the chance when she’s offered a scholarship to St Rita’s School for Spirited Girls by Mrs Crump, the head librarian. From her father’s point of view, the offer has the overwhelming advantage of being free.

At the railway station on her way to her new school, a stranger passes Daphne a book to return to the library. With its lurid cover of a gun-toting woman in a red dress, Scarlet Fury draws some odd glances in Daphne’s hands so she swaps the cover for something more suitable, but the book is soon forgotten when she arrives at St Rita’s and is met by the cheerful, scruffy George, the only boy in the school, who guides her past the large crater in the driveway – courtesy of a chemistry experiment -  and into the school’s crumbling grandeur. There are broken windows on the first floor from a motorbike accident and only the wallpaper seems to be holding the place together.

The library isn’t much better. It’s mostly empty, courtesy of a mysterious fire that the insurers had classed as deliberate, and Daphne isn’t sure what to make of the decidedly odd Emily Lime, the assistant librarian, a small girl wearing wonky glasses and a school beret. A break-in at the library plunges Daphne, George and Emily deep into the mystery of a theft from the local bank and proves that life at St Rita’s is never likely to be boring.

St Rita’s School for Spirited Girls resembles St Trinian’s more than it does Robin Stevens’ Deepdean School for Girls in the equally entertaining but decidedly more genteel Murder Most Unladylike series. The library is home to a mysterious Beast that lurks on top of the mostly empty bookshelves, and there is a hole in the dormitory floor caused by a stray cannonball.

The book crackles with energy and anarchic amusement, and its characters are brought vividly to life as much by author Dave Shelton’s sharply imagined drawings as by his finely honed descriptions of life at the chaotic St Rita’s. There’s plenty of fun in this inventive school mystery set a post-war Britain where butchers’ boys still ride around on bikes with strings of sausages in their baskets.

The Book Case is a funny, fast-moving start to what I presume is a series of Emily Lime Mysteries. If future ones live up to this, they’ll be well worth reading.

Reviewed 01 September 2018 by Linda Wilson