I am seeking representation for my middle-grade mystery, complete at 55,000 words. The novel could be described as Murder Most Unladylike meets The Great British Bake Off.

Twelve-year-old Hailey aspires to be an investigator, but her efforts more often lead to detention than a conclusion. Hailey is constantly told by adults to put her dreams aside in favour of something more realistic and, to keep her out of trouble, is sent to her great aunt on a remote island for the summer holidays. This is also where the television series Bakeathon is being filmed. A pile of cookbooks is burned in a mysterious fire and shortly afterwards the head judge dies. Certain there is a murderer close by, Hailey decides to investigate.

Another judge, two contestants, an aspiring presenter, a superfan and the director are all suspects with strong motives for murder. Concern that her new friend, Jamie, will be falsely arrested compels Hailey to stick with her investigations.

With references to British pop culture and a similar structure to books in the Murder Most Unladylike series, I believe the book has potential to sell in the current market.

In 2019 I was selected for the Write Mentor summer programme, and I also won a six-month bursary from online writing course provider Writer’s HQ. In 2017, I was awarded an Arvon Grant and took part in a week-long course about children’s literature which enabled me to network with other aspiring writers. I am an active book blogger and member of the online children’s book community. I review titles from board books to YA on my blog, https://bookmurmuration.wordpress.com/, which means I have a strong knowledge of the current market.

I enclose the first chapter and would be ready to hear your thoughts and suggested changes to make the manuscript the best it can be.

With thanks for your time,

Louise Nettleton

 

‘In a classroom unaccompanied, reading a teacher’s folder,’ said Mr Hendricks.‘With the drawer wide open, despite the fact it was supposed to remain locked at all times. And you told Miss Khan you were practising your detective skills.’ Mr Hendricks squinted at the behaviour slip in front of him as if he was consulting a police report. ‘Really, the make-believe has to stop.’

Hailey had been on the brink of a discovery. Had she solved the mystery, her name would have gone down in school legend. Justice would have been served. Instead, she had found herself in her head of year’s office.And the head of Year Eight, Mr Hendricks, was not somebody whose company Hailey enjoyed. She would much rather have been in the library, talking about detective fiction with the volunteer school librarians from the year above. She was even hoping they might become her friends in time.

She pulled at her frizzy, brown hair, but the more she tried to tidy it, the messier it looked. It was no good. If she didn’t say something now, Mr Hendricks would speak again.

‘Maisie said there was going to be a random science quiz.’

‘And?’

‘And I wanted to know if it was true.’

Mr Hendricks skimmed his thumb over the Behaviour Concern form, looking up occasionally to perform his special frown. Really, the man was going to have to take amateur dramatics lessons if he was going to convince anybody. From the way Mr Hendricks folded his arms and glared at her, you would think Hailey had said something terrible. All she had ever wanted was to make the world a better place by uncovering dishonesty and deception.

‘So, you were not only in a teacher’s private folder, you were looking to cheat on a random assessment?’

‘No, just to investigate. I wanted to solve the mystery.’

Mr Hendricks held up a hand. ‘Let’s stop all this nonsense about detectives, shall we? It’s yourself you’re letting down.’

‘There’s real detectives,’ Hailey muttered.

‘Yes,’ said Mr Hendricks, his coffee-breath filling the space between them as he leaned in, ‘but unfortunately it’s not a realistic or achievable aspiration.’ He pulled open a drawer beneath his desk and handed Hailey a slip. ‘Book a session with our careers adviser and look at your options. Work a little harder on your CV and there will be no need for fairy tales. And perhaps if you find the time to study, there will be no need to cheat.’

Silence followed his statement. The fan whirred noisily as though it too was struggling to keep up the momentum. Hailey thought about the YouTube videos she had watched on interrogation. If she wanted to reach the library before the bell rang, she would need to demonstrate some good acting skills.