The Detective’s Guide to Ocean Travel
By Nicki Greenberg
Reviewed by Annaleise Byrd
Picture book author Nicki Greenberg’s debut middle grade novel, The Detective’s Guide to Ocean Travel, is a riveting mystery story set aboard the opulent RMS Aquitania during the golden age of steamships and grand voyages.
It’s 1927 and thirteen-year-old Pepper Stark has never been allowed to travel on the luxurious ocean liner captained by her aloof father. So when ‘the Captain’ finally permits Pepper to accompany him on a Transatlantic crossing, she’s determined to make the most of every moment. Along with three new friends—each of whom has a distinct personality and their own agenda aboard the ship—and with her ‘ever-tutting’ governess conveniently indisposed by a bout of seasickness, Pepper soaks in the glamour and gossip, decadent dinners and extravagant shipboard events.
However, things take a dramatic turn when a starlet’s priceless diamond goes missing. With Pepper’s father’s reputation on the line, Pepper and her friends set out to find the culprit—and the diamond—before the Aquitania reaches New York.
This is an unpredictable ‘whodunnit’ story with a fascinating setting, an array of lovable and eccentric characters, and quality writing. Pepper’s adventurous spirit and requisite willingness to break the rules, along with her plight as the neglected and motherless daughter of a busy and important man, will have readers cheering her on from beginning to end.
While the characters are invented, the Aquitania was a real ship; the text abounds with evidence of Greenberg’s extensive research. Sylvia Morris’s cover design and an internal, labelled illustration of the Aquitania’s impressive exterior further enhance the novel’s nostalgic appeal.
With its sophisticated vocabulary and palpable danger towards the end, this book is perfect for confident readers aged 10+, particularly fans of Murder Most Unladylike and Adventures on Trains.
Affirm Press 2021