Set in Norfolk in 1955 this children’s novel, both beautifully and poetically written (“poppies white as talcum powder and pink as peardrops and scarlet as new blood” in the opening paragraph) and tightly plotted from one daring escapade to the next, is a thrilling and evocative read.
Ten-year-old Annie and eleven-year-old Sandy (just returned to England from America with his mother) take it upon themselves to try and discover a set of carved angels missing from the church for hundreds of years.
The freedom allowed ten and eleven-year-olds in the 1950s allows Crossley-Holland to write episode aftger episode of reckless daring. One particularly vivid scene has them climbing the church tower and being attacked by a swarm of bees.
The dialogue is marvellously clipped and unbloated. When the adults are involved the reader is made party to remarks that cleverly create, brushstroke after brushstroke, a backstory going back a decade, when American GI’s were stationed in the region. The other backstory reverberates across centuries from the time when the angels were first carved to the time when they were taken or hidden away and on to the present time of their attempted recovery.
The characters in the novel are presented at the front of the book as a cast list. I could think of nothing more pleasing than a television serialisation of this wonderfully well-modulated story.