Eloise Undercover

Eloise is a feisty French twelve-year-old with a passion for detective stories in which an ace sleuth, Monsieur X, solves mysteries and instructs readers on the art of mystery-solving. When her beloved father disappears in occupied France she decides, detective-like, to find him. She joins the local Resistance and endures many trials and challenges, which take her through hidden passages, cellars, boat-, car- and foot-chases, gun battles, explosions, etc. Resistance narrative meets Enid Blyton adventure. The story touches on the fate of Jewish and Gypsy friends and neighbours.

There are many interesting sub-themes, including personal and national identity, loyalty, and betrayal. Easy answers are avoided. Things are not simply black and white. Your best friend may betray and still feel loyalty. A beloved grandmother may tell lies. A mother may be both treacherous and loving. There is also a good evocative sense of place, the Loire Valley and its environs.

However, though well-written, the narrative is overlong and repetitive. There is too much telling and not enough showing, suggesting that better editing was required. Sometimes Eloise seems too naïve for a clever twelve-year-old living under German occupation. She does not seem to know what a swastika is.