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Phyllis Wong and The Forgotten Secrets of Mr Okyto by Geoffrey McSkimming

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Phyllis Wong and the Forgotten Secrets of Mr Okyto: Review
When Phyllis Wong hears of a robbery taking place a few floors down from her apartment, she instantly goes to investigate. While to the average person the robbery seems impossible, Phyllis instantly recognises the handiwork of an expert magician, for she is the great-granddaughter of the Conjurer of Wonder, Wallace Wong. After gathering details and descriptions she takes to her friend Chief Inspector Inglis, a local Policeman. Things take a turn for the worse however, two more robberies occurring, one in the city’s most expensive jewellery store, and the other involving the theft of a recently uncovered Picasso masterpiece. Every one of the thefts seems to take place in front of witnesses but no one sees a thing. And every one of the thefts point to the same suspect. Who is this man? What does he want? And what is his connection to Phyllis Wong’s great-grandfather?
Geoffrey McSkimming has undoubtedly written a great book. While the target audience leans more towards girls, most boys will enjoy this book just as much. Not only is the plot quirky and salacious, it familiarises a whole new generation with the dying skill of conjuring and magic. I was surprised at how detailed it goes into with the performances, explaining how the tricks were done with techniques such as misdirection and sleight of hand. While the occasional sophisticated word confuses with the otherwise simple writing style and the French character’s dialect can be tedious to decode, Phyllis Wong and the Forgotten Secrets of Mr Okyto makes for an easy and enjoyable read.
One of the major negative points is it takes quite a while to get into. In order for the reader to fully understand what is going on, a lot of introducing of characters and lengthy descriptions are required. The book will probably test most people’s patience, as it did to mine. However, the eccentric range of characters and the anticipation of finding out who committed the crime should push the reader past the first sixty-or-so pages, where it really starts to get interesting. Also, the writing can only offer so much to a reader, and anyone older than thirteen who is keen to read something of the mystery-crime genre should probably search somewhere else.
Overall, Phyllis Wong and the Forgotten Secrets of Mr Okyto is a very entertaining and exciting novel for anyone between eight and thirteen years old. A book like this could motivate a reluctant reader to be otherwise and open them up to a whole new genre in the tradition of Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden. There’s bound to be more where it came from, too.



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