Ghost-writing and authoring-by-committee is nothing new, and, now that publishers are feeling the pinch with the implosion of the traditional side of the industry in favour of independent publishing, this business model has been embraced again by big companies with the dollars to make it work. Joining “Carolyn Keene“, “Franklin W. Dixon” (both owned by the Stratemeyer Syndicate) and “Daisy Meadows” (Orchard Books) is “Lena Jones”, a collaboration between literary agency Tibor Jones and publisher HarperCollins, involving an unknown number of authors.
Like the older Nancy Drew books, Agatha Oddly goes pretty dark and dangerous, with its titular character in constant peril and frequently being knocked out, drugged, tied up, held at knife- or gun-point, kidnapped, and/or left for dead. There is also a recurring mystery of Agatha’s mother, who was murdered. So save this one for ages 12+ if they’re reading to themselves.
That said (and ignoring the amateurish first-person-present-tense narrative), there are a good few elements to like about Agatha Oddly. Agatha herself is smart and capable, with plenty of quirks that make her likeable. The platonic relationship triangle between Agatha, a boy, and another girl is a masterclass in respect and mutual support. And, although Agatha’s mother is dead, her past actions and skill sets, her identity, and her personality and humanity feature strongly in the stories (unlike any number of other motherless/orphaned-protagonist franchises where the protagonist’s mother is barely ever mentioned again).
The Secret Key
Red slime begins pouring out of every water tap in London, bringing the city to its knees. Luckily, Agatha Oddlow is around to sneak out of school and investigate, making connections between events, and getting herself into a whole lot of trouble.
Murder at the Museum
A news story about a murdered staff member at the British Museum catches Agatha’s attention and she dons a cleaner’s outfit to sneak in and find out more.
The Silver Serpent
Agatha investigates a case of a missing person at the National Gallery.
Elle Carter Neal is the author of the middle-grade chapter book The Convoluted Key, picture book I Own All the Blue, and teen science-fantasy novel Madison Lane and the Wand of Rasputin. She has been telling stories for as long as she can remember, holding childhood slumber-party audiences entranced until the early hours of the morning. Elle decided to be an author the day she discovered that real people wrote books and that writing books was a real job.