As a child and young teen, I read many different kinds of books, but my favourites were always those which described exotic adventures steeped in mystery, with brave characters who embarked on fantastic ventures. So when The False Rose fell into my hands, I was beyond excited to read it and get lost in its pages.
The False Rose, translated from the Swedish by Peter Graves and published by Pushkin Press, is the third instalment in the Sally Jones series (the previous ones being The Legend of Sally Jones and The Murderer’s Ape which are also available by Pushkin Press). You can easily follow and enjoy the story even if you haven’t read the previous books. There are several pages at the beginning of the book introducing the characters with wonderful black and white drawings for each one, and there is a mini recap of sorts every time an event or character from a previous book is referenced. So fear not and dive right in this delightful adventure with lovely Sally Jones and her friends.
The story opens in Lisbon, where we are introduced to the protagonist, Sally Jones, an ‘anthropoid ape’ that works as a ship engineer. Along with the Chief, they discover a rose-shaped necklace on their ship, the Hudson Queen, and they become entangled in the mystery surrounding its previous owner. Sally and the Chief embark on a quest to return the necklace to its rightful owner, a quest that leads them to the gloomy and shady parts of Glasgow.
However, nothing is as easy as it seems and the mystery of the necklace isn’t all that straightforward. Sally and the Chief encounter dangerous street gangs and the intimidating smuggler queen Moira, who will do everything in her power to obtain the necklace for herself.
The story is intriguing and gripping until the very end and I was at the edge of my seat with every twist and turn. I grew very attached to Sally Jones, who is also the narrator of the story, thus letting the reader in on her thoughts and feelings, since she cannot really speak in the book (but she can read and write, skills that come in very handy at times!).
I also really loved reading the descriptions of the places Sally and the Chief travel to or find themselves in. Not having been able to travel myself at all the past two years, it was a true delight to embark on a journey through the pages of this book from Lisbon to Glasgow, where the majority of the plot takes place, and later on to the Scottish Highlands and the French countryside. The mystery was also very interesting, although there were various other sub-plots that had to get resolved before the solution was provided at the end.
All in all, The False Rose is a perfect cosy read for those gloomy autumn and winter afternoons. Although it is targeted towards younger readers, it can be read and enjoyed by people of any age, as it has all the ingredients to keep you turning page after page – great writing (and a great translation, I’m sure), an engaging mystery/adventure plot and wonderful characters that will remain with you long after you’ve turned the last page. Reading this book was a thoroughly enjoyable experience that provided me with some much needed escapism and brought me back to my very early teens, when I was reading such gripping page-turners every chance I had.
The False Rose was published by Pushkin Press on 7th October 2021. A copy of the book was very kindly provided to me by the publisher.