Monday, December 2, 2019

The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow (The Sinclair’s Mysteries #1) by Katherine Woodfine

24463265The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow by Katherine Woodfine
Format:  Paperback
Publisher:  Kane Miller a Division of EDC Publishing

Number of Pages:  320
Published:  June 4th,  2015
Source:  Publisher in exchange for an honest review

Opening Line:  "This dainty straw hat with a ribbon bow is the essence of charming simplicity." 

Fourteen-year-old Sophie has been orphaned ever since her father was killed in a military accident in South Africa.  Since her father left no will or instructions for her care and she's in desperate need of money to make ends meet, Sophia ends up getting hired as a shop girl at Sinclair's, a high-end Department Store opening soon in London.  On the eve of the store's grand opening, a robbery occurs and the thief takes off with Mr. Sinclair's most prized possession, The Clockwork Sparrow.  Sophie was the last person seen leaving the store that evening and therefore becomes the police's number one suspect.  There was a witness to the robbery, a young vagrant named Joe, but he has since gone into hiding to avoid capture because of his past connections to a gang from the east end of London who has been hunting for him all over town.   The only other person who is convinced of Sophie's innocence is Billy, an apprentice porter, and nephew of the head doorman.  With the help of Joe, and Lilian Rose, one of Mr. Sinclair's Captain Girls, Billy sets out to uncover the truth and find the true culprit.

I loved reading mysteries like The Nancy Drew series growing up.  It was probably one of the first series that I read.  I loved how Nancy was independent and strong-minded and of course her sleuthing skills.  As soon as I saw the cover of The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow with those lovely silhouettes in the windows,  I jumped at the chance to read it.  I was half expecting something along the lines of the Murder Most Unlady Like mystery series by Robin Stevens except this book doesn't take place in a boarding school, instead, it takes place at Sinclair's in London.  A bustling department store, reminiscent of my one trip to Harrods.  Think tea sandwiches, biscuits, crumpets, and buns, balls and parties with girls in corsets wearing flowery gowns, fancy hats and the posh finery of silver hat pins in the shape of a rose.  An utterly delightful setting for a mystery.  At the same time, it's filled with lovely British words and phrases like, "geezer", "a quiet corner to kip for the night", and my favorite "it's all rot."  The illustrations were charming and there are newspaper-style clippings sprinkled throughout the book.  

The story begins with our main character Sophie who is just trying to make ends meet.  The other shopgirls from Sinclair's think she is too posh, upidity, even refer to her as a princess, but I actually quite liked Sophie.  She has a kind heart and tries very hard not to let the girls teasing get to her.  Partway through the emphasis of the story switches to Lil and Billy as they try to help prove Sophie's innocence.  Lil is lots of fun,  she has an infectious personality, bubbly and very easy going.  She knows what she wants and has no trouble getting it.  Lil takes to Sophie right away and I bet their friendship grows across the series.  Billy is also adorable, I  just love how he's an avid reader of serial mysteries and his steadfast belief in Sophie.  I think he actually has a crush on her.  We'll see where that goes.  I could certainly read more stories featuring this trio.          

The mystery was a tad slow to evolve, although there were some nice twists and turns in the middle.   As the first in the series of Sinclair's Mysteries, I did see the importance of establishing the characters and to develop the setting more than you would in say the second book.  I guess I was just hoping for more suspects and clues to follow and an exciting mystery to solve.   The Baron did, however, make for an interesting character, with his hidden identity and connection to Joe's past.   I'd imagine he'll resurface in a later book.  There were a few ciphers, which normally I'd love to take a crack at, but these ones didn't lend themselves to the reader solving.  Instead, the answers came from the characters in the story, which was slightly disappointing.  Yet, overall I did still quite enjoy how the mystery was resolved, the overall setting and British feel of the story and how the story alludes to a potential future career for Sophie and Lil as private detectives.   


  1. The cover is intriguing! It made me want to pick up the book. I do love a good mystery and this one sounds like it has some strong points and I am glad to hear it was good overall. :)

  2. I like the cover and the story sounds good.

  3. Glad you enjoyed this one! I hope book two is more up your alley! :)