Book Title: THE BILLIONAIRE'S CURSE
Author: Richard Newsome
Publisher: Text Publishing (Young Adult / Children's Writing)
No of Pages: 355
Someone has stolen the world’s most valuable diamond and a constable lies unconscious in the British Museum, two sedative darts protruding from his backside.
Not something Gerald Wilkins knows or cares anything about.
Not until he finds himself on a private luxury jet heading for London to attend the funeral of a great aunt he has never met. Not until he inherits her estate, worth twenty billion pounds. Not until he opens a bundle of envelopes from his dead great aunt.
Was she murdered? Who stole the diamond? And what is the mysterious casket that everyone seems to be looking for?
With the help of the Valentine twins, the rat-fearing Sam and the gymnastic champ Ruby, Gerald’s got a mystery to solve. A mystery that will take them into secret passageways, a musty bookshop, an ancient crypt, a ruined tower and a colossal cavern where the secret of a priceless treasure lie.
Remember when you were a kid and The Adventurous Four, The Famous Five and The Secret Seven were just the ticket for an exciting read (okay so you have to be of "a certain age" for that to apply), but I still remember how satisfying those books were. An adventure, a puzzle that had to be solved - by a bunch of kids of a similar age to yourself, all done and dusted and home in time for tea. Many a person "of a certain age" will attest that these books were the ones that got them started on a life-long love of reading. Perhaps that's partly because they were so easy to identify with, or had scenarios that the average kid could aspire to, dream of. THE BILLIONAIRE'S CURSE could very well be the same sort of book for kids of a current age.
Definitely set in a more current day world - the book blurb starts off with "What would you do if you suddenly became a billionaire?". It's the story of 13 year old Australian boy Gerald, who comes from a relatively staid, standard suburban life enlivened mostly by fantasies of great deeds and heroics. He could never have imagined the scenario that instead finds him home from school and bundled onto a luxury private jet, winging his way to London to become the richest thirteen-year-old in the world, as a hitherto unknown Great Aunt leaves the family fortune to him. Nor could he have dreamed up the theft of the world's most valuable diamond, and a murder that leads directly to Gerald's own life being in danger. Gerald's just the boy for the situation though - he's got his billionaire survival kit, he's got some new friends and they are off to solve the mystery!
Despite a considerably more current day setting and plotline than those great old books of our own childhood, there is quite a feel of the The Famous Five about the style of THE BILLIONAIRE'S CURSE. The language used is simple, yet engaging, slightly formal and every so slightly stagey, but it works. This is the sort of book that a child could read for themselves, or an adult would have great fun reading to children - either way the book works as a great entertainment, with just enough scary bits for a spot of hiding under the doona to add to the excitement.
The winner of the inaugural Text Prize for Young Adult and Children's Writing, THE BILLIONAIRE'S CURSE made this adult reader very very happy. Whilst there is something nostalgic, old-fashioned, almost comfortable about reading a kids book about kids who save the day and solve the puzzle, there is something very satisfying about the idea that kids - of all ages - are still able to find a book like THE BILLIONAIRE'S CURSE that may, just may, lead to a life-long love of reading.