THE SECRET OF THE SACRED SCARAB by Fiona Ingram

“’Oh my gosh’, Justin hissed. ‘This is some kind of plot.”

This rip-roaring yarn is so utterly in the genre of ‘Boys’ Own’ adventure stories that it took me right back to my weekly journeys to the local library more than sixty years ago on the lookout for another selection of Tarzan / Biggles / Famous Five – type adventure stories to get my pre-pubescent teeth into. If it had anything to do with treasure, I was in, just like Adam and Justin. Revisiting the genre at the age of 75, one sentence towards the end resonated: “No adult would ever believe what they had just experienced.” Well, we needn’t let that stand in the way of an eager and heaps-more-credulous child reader, need we?!

The story is loaded with the sort of characters, places, situations and interesting objects that you can confidently expect to find in such a tale: young boys determined upon an adventure, an aunt who takes them on one while warning them that they are on no account to get involved in it, the evil Dr Khalid effortlessly duping almost all the inexplicably credulous adults around him while so obviously (at least to Adam and Justin and the readers of this book) being an out-and-out heartless villain operating a smuggling operation with the aid of a large gang of shady characters, the kidnapping of an intrepid and worthily upper-class English archaeologist who must be rescued before it’s too late, the pyramids and tombs of Ancient Egypt, tunnels and secret rooms, sets of stone steps that disappear into inky darkness, a ring that looks like a jewelled dagger piercing an intricate knot with a gem-studded snake writhed around the hilt of the dagger, the sacred scarab and its incredible secret … I could go on, but you get the general idea!

There is so much to admire here. The locations have been well-researched, the story is replete with interesting, educational, historical and factual details and there are further notes at the end. It is very well-written and moves along at a cracking pace. I am not at all surprised that it has garnered awards and attracted a good number of enthusiastic, five-star reviews. I cannot go back to being twelve again, but it is good to know that today’s twelve-year-olds are being given the opportunity to lose themselves in the kind of gripping tale of derring-do that so completely captivated me when I was that age.

 

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