The Secret of the Black Moon Moth (4 stars)

The Secret of the Black Moon Moth

John Fardell must be responsible for an awful lot of frustrated children at bedtime. Whether they’re being read to, or reading alone, when the end of a chapter signals lights out it’s almost unbearable. King of the cliff-hanger and a master of anticipation, Fardell closes each instalment of The Secret of the Black Moon Moth with one tantalising teaser after another.

The third in a series of adventure novels, which started with The 7 Professors of the Far North and continued with The Flight of the Silver Turtle, this enjoyable story may be set in present day but has a charm more akin to fiction from the 1940s and 50s. Set in the UK and the tropical jungles of South East Asia, the action is peppered with surprises – both good and bad – that cause wonderment and worry in equal measure.

The three boys and two girls who dominate the story are so capable, you’d quite happily let them run the country. This famous five can construct canopies in the rainforest, fly planes, rescue other children and have a moral and social compass that could lead us all. Fardell’s capacity for descriptive text fills your mind with amazing images of exotic animals, underground cities and incredible boat planes, never once boring us with unnecessary prose.

If there’s a criticism, it’s that he wraps up the action too swiftly towards the end, when the story could easily have withstood another chapter or two. As much fun for parents as children, The Secret of the Black Moon Moth is hopefully just the latest, not the last, in this exciting series.

Faber, £6.99

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