Black Books Club: ‘High-Rise Mystery’ by Sharna Jackson – Meet the crime world’s newest detectives

The first young black detective duo in fiction appears in Sharna Jackson’s compelling new novel

Hugo runs the weekly art club on The Tri estate. He is also a regular attendee at The Tri’s residents’ meetings. At least he was. Until he turned up in The Tri’s rubbish disposal, dead. Who killed him? Sisters Norva and Nik, the estate’s resident detectives, are hot on the case. This is the biggest mystery they’ve ever handled but they’re determined to crack it. Not only was Hugo a good friend, but you can’t have murderers strolling around The Tri. When their dad is arrested for Hugo’s murder, the stakes get even higher.

High-Rise Mystery by Sharna Jackson is written from Nik’s point-of-view, the youngest of the sisters. She is analytical and precise, judging everybody with a suspicious eye. Her scientific approach is balanced out by her sister who runs on emotion the way a car runs on diesel. Norva’s gift is her ability to harness her wild energy, throw all the clues into a mental oven and, ding, pull out an answer to the mystery. As Norva puts it, Nik is the nut while she’s the gut.

The book is filled with a cast of wacky characters. Many of them end up on Nik’s shortlist of murder suspects. They include the surprisingly fit Mrs Kowalski from flat 222 who regularly lugs home heavy shopping bags proving she could probably lift a corpse single-handed. The overly sweet Charity Jane who has been acting strangely and popping up in unexpected places. And Mark Walker, age 16, perpetually broke and the object of Norva’s lust.

Jackson says she has always been a fan of detective stories, especially old-fashioned sleuths like Hercule Poirot and Sherlock Holmes. In 2017 she got the idea to take a traditional murder mystery and set it on a council estate. The result is a fast-paced, fresh and funny mystery.

I bought my 11-year-old nephew a copy of High-Rise Mystery so we could read it together. He raced through it in two days. He said the author did a good job of keeping the mystery going right until the end. I can vouch for this. When Hugo’s killer was finally unmasked it was quite a shock. Which is exactly what you want from a murder mystery. I hope Sharna Jackson is working on her next book. I’m eager to see what other adventures Nik and Norva get caught up in on The Tri estate.

 

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