THE SECRET OF THE TREASURE KEEPERS
author: A.M. Howell
illustrations: Rachel Corcoran
Usborne Books (31 March 2022)
February 1948. Waiting for her mother to finish an interview with Mr Knight at the British Museum, Ruth answers an impatiently ringing telephone and takes a message involving the discovery of artifacts at a Norfolk farm. Before she knows it, Ruth is whisked off to the lonely Rook Farm to investigate the long-buried treasure and maybe land her mother that job. Upon arrival, she finds a struggle to keep the farm going, secrets lurking around every corner and a deeply buried mystery about the treasure. Joe, the farmer’s son, is hiding something, while land girl Audrey watches their every move. Before Ruth can find out more, the treasure is stolen… With a storm coming, Ruth must race to uncover the secrets of the treasure keepers before all of their lives are changed forever.
In The Secrets of the Treasure Keepers, we have another historical mystery; one that takes us to post WW2 England, where struggle is rife and into the world of archaeology and the search for Roman hoards. The reader gets a true sense of the time and landscape, how the people are coping (or not) in the aftermath of the war and the hope for things to change. There is also a sense of history, both in the setting of the book, but more importantly, in the search for Roman finds. This is a part of the world that is desperate to know where it came from; how it came to be. And maybe how to keep things as they are. There is a strong theme of change in the story, with compassion as to why people buck against it while still handing the knowledge that we can’t stop time…change is inevitable. It’s what we preserve and why; how to carry our past forward while understanding that it is the past. It’s time is gone and no matter what we do, we can’t call it back.
The mystery is, of course, at the heart of this story; and the investigation. We have seen this trope before and here it is handled well; lending curiosity, intrigue and spirit to give very satisfying results. Ruth is an imaginative, but determined investigator (and a likable character, kind and caring.) She is well able to translate her flights of fancy into practical ideas, and is bold enough to take action and seek out the facts. She has no problem working around authority figures who are stuck in limited thinking and taking chances that lead to discovery. Her interest in archaeology, her skill at puzzling things out and investigating are superb. As she gets to know Joe, a boy with many burdens of his own, she is able to empathise with him, but also to get him onside. Together, they make a formidable team. Using them as a touch-stone, Howell gives us insight into how things are done on archaeological gigs, as well as the types of Roman finds uncovered.
Quietly exciting, this book takes the reader on quite a quest as the heroes investigate and solve an intriguing mystery and come to an understanding of how the past feeds the present and how to go forward. Intelligent, articulate, compelling; a tale with both truth and imagination at its’ heart. It may not be loud and showy, but it is a fascinating read. https://usborne.com/gb/the-secret-of-the-treasure-keepers-9781474991117