02/12/2010

Home to Witchend (by Malcolm Saville)

I started reading Malcolm Saville's adventure stories when I was around ten or eleven, I suppose. I found the writing good, the stories exciting without being terrifying, and the characterisation excellent. I particularly enjoyed his 'Lone Pine Adventure' series, and during my teens I gradually collected them all.

I re-read them at least once in my twenties; my sons enjoyed them, and I've lent them to friends - both teens and adults. Two and a half years ago, I picked up 'Mystery at Witchend', first in the series, and very much enjoyed it. However, I didn't want to read the entire series in a couple of weeks, so I interspersed the books with others... and then stopped for a while. Last month I decided to skip some of the books that didn't interest me so much, and re-read some of the later ones.

Finally, I've just finished 'Home to Witchend', which is 20th in the series. I didn't buy it until I was nineteen; it was only published a year earlier, at least thirty years after the first books in the series. It was evidently written to draw together several threads and finish the series, and to some extent feels a little contrived.

Still, there's an exciting adventure involving some old enemies and the printing of forged banknotes. The twins, Dickie and Mary, recognise one of their former adversaries, and are determined to continue the Lone Pine club, in particular its aim of tracking suspicious strangers. They are nearly involved in a nasty accident as a result of ignoring wise advice from two different adults on a stormy day.

David, the original founder of the club, is rather distracted by arranging a party packed with surprises for Peter (Petronella)'s 18th birthday. Tom and Jenny, another young couple, don't feature much in this book, while Jon and Penny, from Rye, barely get a mention despite appearing for the grand finale.

Characterisation is as good as ever with Saville's books, and the forgery plot is nicely done, even if it seems rather unrealistic. The ending brings together just about everyone involved in any of the Lone Pine adventures, and promises a new emphasis for the club, now that the six older Lone Piners have rather outgrown it (although they certainly intend to keep their promises to be true to each other). However, any future adventures will have to be written by someone else, or imagined, since Malcolm Saville didn't write any more.

Recommended as the end of the series, but probably wouldn't be of great interest to anyone who hasn't read any of the other Lone Pine books.

A hardback edition was re-published in 2009 although it's now out of print and very expensive second-hand. Occasionally the Armada paperback version can be found in charity shops.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 2nd December 2010

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