Agent Zaiba Investigates #3: The Haunted House – Annabelle Sami

Illustrations – Daniela Sosa

Zaiba and Poppy have a new friend, Olivia, whose family has recently moved to Oakwood Manor. This home has a long and interesting history and there are plenty of rooms to explore, some of which have secrets to uncover.

There’s also one other minor detail; the Manor is haunted. Plates have been smashed, furniture moves on its own, items have gone missing and now sinister messages have been found within the home.

“Wow, that’s a lot of creepy stuff. Why do you live here again?”

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Although, not everyone agrees that this is a case for the Ghostbusters.

“From a scientific point of view, there is absolutely no hard evidence to prove that ghosts exist.”

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Zaiba’s brother, Ali, may be right about that but whether the cause of the disturbances is supernatural or otherwise, it’s definitely something the Snow Leopard Detective Agency UK are going to figure out. They have their next case and some extra investigators to help them solve it.

Ali also has a new friend, Olivia’s younger sister, Flora. Ali and Flora both share a love of knowledge so they’re well matched. There are also Ade and Layla, whose parents are guests at the party Olivia’s parents are hosting.

I would love to live in Olivia’s new home. Befitting a good mystery, there are secret passages and there’s even a murphy door in the library. This home has its very own library! 😍

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While adult me solved the mystery alongside Zaiba, kid me probably would have been befuddled by all of the people acting suspiciously.

You could jump straight into this investigation without getting lost but some details of previous investigations are mentioned, so I’d recommend reading the series in order.

I always enjoy Daniela Sosa’s illustrations and they help bring the story alive here. From highlighting friendships to pointing out the clues (or are they red herrings?), the details line up well with the text.

Stick around after you solve the investigation for some fun extras: detective tips, some Oakwood Manor history, information about jinn, fun things to do during a sleepover, a recipe, jokes and an excerpt from Zaiba’s first investigation.

If there were two things that went well together, it was chocolate mousse and crime solving!

I’m already looking forward to Zaiba’s next investigation, The Smuggler’s Secret.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Stripes Publishing, an imprint of Little Tiger Group, for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Determined to be the world’s greatest detective, Zaiba is always on the lookout for a crime to solve!

When a new family moves to the village, Zaiba is intrigued to hear about the strange happenings in their home. Things go missing, objects are smashed and unfriendly messages are painted on the walls. There have always been rumours that the house is haunted, but is a ghost really causing all this trouble? Zaiba and her team are convinced that the culprit is very much alive – and won’t stop until they get what they want…

The third book in a fun, fresh and exciting new detective series, for readers not quite ready for Robin Stevens, Katherine Woodfine, High Rise Mystery and Nancy Drew.

Agent Zaiba Investigates #2: The Poison Plot – Annabelle Sami

Illustrations – Daniela Sosa

Spoilers Ahead!

It’s the thirtieth Beckley School Summer Fete and Zaiba, our adorable British Pakistani main character, is in charge of the treasure trail. Of course Zaiba, being a detective in training, has transformed it into a detective trail.

There were twists and turns, riddles and mysteries to crack – plus a list of likely suspects.

Her father, Hassan, and younger brother, Ali, are keen to win the baking competition. Zaiba’s stepmother, Jessica, is going to be busy face painting, putting her artistic flair to good use.

Zaiba is proud of the work she and Poppy, her best friend, have put into making the detective trail perfect, although she’s eager for the opportunity to solve another crime.

“A crime will arrive when you least expect it”

Amidst the festivities there is indeed a crime taking place. Someone has been poisoned! Fortunately, the UK branch of the Snow Leopard Detective Agency are ready to find the clues, narrow down the suspects and solve this crime.

With plenty of people acting suspicious there are no shortage of suspects. Readers will enjoy sorting out the red herrings from the clues and trying to solve the case before Zaiba and the rest of the Snow Leopards do.

As you explore the school grounds with Zaiba both before and after the crime, you’ll come across plenty of clues, or are they? For starters, there’s environmentally friendly glitter, gardening that would make Morticia Addams proud, adults behaving badly and treasonous book vandalism.

And the person with a penchant for poison is … Nice try! You didn’t really think I’d spoil the reveal for you, did you?

I loved Daniela Sosa’s illustrations in the first book and continued to enjoy them here. The bunting above the chapter headings was an appropriate choice. I particularly liked the inclusion of some of Ali’s photos towards the end of the book, as he’d been taking plenty of photos throughout the day for the school newspaper.

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I enjoyed hearing more about Eden Lockett’s books. Eden, a detective-turned-author, is Zaiba’s favourite author. I always get sucked in by the idea of fictional books within a book and usually wish they were real. The one I’m most interested in reading from this book is The Clown’s Clue. Revenge under the Big Top sounds like so much fun!

⚠️ The spoiler is in the next paragraph! ⚠️

My only niggle was feeling like the person who committed the crime essentially got away with it. Although it’s nice that all’s well that ends well, I hesitate when children’s books don’t really hold people accountable for bad behaviour, especially for actions that are criminal. Yes, the person who committed the crime won’t be thrilled about the consequences they do face but if someone gets caught poisoning someone, getting a warning from the Police doesn’t even feel equivalent to a slap on the wrist to me.

Fun extras at the end of the story include some fictional book within a book love (an extract from an Eden Lockett book), tips for creating your own detective trail and advice from Zaiba’s ammi.

If plan A doesn’t work, there’s a whole alphabet worth of letters left to try!

I was thrilled to see Mariam, Zaiba’s least favourite cousin, at the fete. I’m still keen to get to know her better. I’m also greedy for more page time with Ali. During future investigations I hope I get to learn more about Zaiba’s ammi and hang out with Aunt Fouzia.

I’d recommend reading this series in order as there are a couple of spoilery bits about Zaiba’s first investigation scattered throughout this one.

The next mystery for the UK branch of the Snow Leopard Detective Agency to solve features a haunted house and I am definitely showing up for that investigation!

“Why wouldn’t anyone want to be a detective?”

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Stripes Publishing, an imprint of Little Tiger Group, for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Determined to be the world’s greatest detective, Zaiba is always on the lookout for a crime to solve!

Zaiba can’t wait for the school summer fair where she’s going to run a detective trail to help train other potential agents! But when the head teacher is poisoned during the highly competitive cake competition, Zaiba’s own skills are put to the test. With a whole host of suspects and a busy crime scene, Zaiba needs to stay focused if she’s going to get to the bottom of the cake catastrophe …

Agent Zaiba Investigates #1: The Missing Diamonds – Annabelle Sami

Illustrations – Daniela Sosa

“Agents assemble!”

I have always loved girl detective books so when I learned of Zaiba’s existence I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to go sleuthing with her. This book is absolutely adorable and even though I’ve only just finished reading about her first case I’m ready to help her solve the next one.

Zaiba is attending her favourite cousin’s pre-wedding Mehndi party at the Royal Star Hotel. Samirah (Sam) will be marrying Tanvir and Zaiba’s family are celebrating together, with food, music and dancing. Zaiba’s best friend, Poppy, is enjoying the fashion and free food and Zaiba’s cousin/nemesis, Mariam, is no doubt scheming up some trouble.

Zaiba longs to be a detective and uses her favourite book, Eden Lockett’s Detective Handbook, as a training manual. Solving mysteries runs in her family; Aunt Fouzia runs the Snow Leopard Detective Agency in Pakistan and was the one who introduced Zaiba to the Eden Lockett mystery books. It isn’t long before Zaiba, Poppy and Zaiba’s younger half-brother, Ali, are investigating their own case.

While I appreciated Zaiba’s determination and attention to detail, it was Ali I wanted to learn more about. Rather than simply being the cliché little brother tagging along on an adventure, Ali holds his own, using his incredible memory for facts and penchant for maths to shine a light on clues that others may overlook.

All good detectives make notes.

I always enjoy searching for clues myself as I read detective stories and I found myself highlighting key words and sentences as I peeked over Zaiba’s shoulder. There are clues which will help readers solve the mystery themselves if they pay attention to the details.

I want to learn more about Aunt Fouzia and Zaiba’s mother during future investigations. Mariam also intrigues me; she has the potential for an interesting character arc, one I hope will see her become an integral part of the team (fingers crossed). I’m keen to discover the true identity of Eden Lockett; I have my suspicions but will keep those to myself for now.

I loved Daniela Sosa’s illustrations and had trouble choosing a favourite, so I’ve chosen two. While this one captures the spirit of adventure and the determination of the trio solving the mystery,

this one reminds me of how much fun I had reading and the book’s positive messages.

You can be anything you want to be.

This book highlights the importance of teamwork and how the support and encouragement of family and friends can give a child the courage they need to follow their dreams and face their fears.

A good agent always ensures the safety of her friends.

There are some fun bonuses at the end of the book, including an extract from one of Eden’s books and some handy tips for detectives in training. I really enjoyed learning more about Mehndi parties and deciphering the coded messages. I’m currently preparing my membership application for the Snow Leopard Detective Agency.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Stripes Publishing, an imprint of Little Tiger Group, for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Eleven-year-old Zaiba is obsessed with crime. Her Aunt Fouzia runs a detective agency back in Karachi and has turned Zaiba on to the brilliant Eden Lockett Mysteries. She has every book in the series – and the quilt cover, and the phone case. All she needs now is a crime to solve …

Zaiba is attending a family Mehndi party at The Grand Royal Star Hotel when she hears that the prized Italian Greyhound of a famous actress has gone missing from the star’s suite. With the help of her best friend and her little brother, the amateur sleuth manages to foil the petnapping plot and save the day.