Friday Barnes #9: No Escape – R.A. Spratt

‘I’m giving that up,’ said Friday.

‘What?’ asked Melanie.

‘Private detection, solving mysteries, that stuff,’ said Friday. ‘I’m not going to do that anymore.’

It’s been two years since we last saw Friday and the years haven’t been kind to her. When we meet up with her again she’s just been released from “the country’s highest security juvenile detention facility”, having spent eleven months imprisoned there.

In that time Binky has graduated (I miss him already!) but Melanie is still at Highcrest Academy and she has held onto Friday’s green pork-pie hat. Melanie might be a great napper but she also knows her best friend can’t stay away from solving mysteries for long.

Thanks to Parker, who was at Highcrest Academy all along but still seems like a replacement Binky to me, Friday is soon investigating the case of the missing passport and missing underwear. She also has an appointment with the school counsellor.

‘Are you going to psychoanalyse me based on my literary preferences?’

Uncle Bernie, Ian, Ian’s mother and Friday’s new cousin are still in Italy. Uncle Bernie needs Friday’s help so it’s lucky that there’s a school excursion to Italy that Friday can join. Melanie’s coming too and as usual she constantly reminded me why I love her.

‘I know you feel scared right now because you’re out of practice at being brave. But I’m your best friend, so I know for a fact that you can do this because you’re the bravest person I’ve ever met.’

For someone who spends most of the book sleeping, she manages to snag some really good lines.

Once they’re all in Italy, Friday has plenty of mysteries to investigate, including the case of the gelato rivals, the mysteriously malfunctioning water heater and the potential theft of priceless artefacts from museums. There are nuns and tourist attractions and the opportunity to say things like:

‘It’s an urgent matter of national historic importance.’

It was really good to get to hang out with Ian again. He and Friday make a great team, even though they sometimes baffle one another.

‘I think you’re going to surprise me, by doing something unimaginable. You always do.’

Friday has grown up a bit in the past two years but her time in Juvie has had a huge impact on her. She’s more fragile and vulnerable, and it’s sad to see her readjusting to real life again. At the same time, though, what she’s been through has made her more relatable to me. While I always loved her, in some of the earlier books it was easy to believe that almost nothing fazed her because she was so out of touch with her feelings.

‘I don’t understand why people do the things they do. I just know what I’ve read in books.’

I’m so glad this series is continuing. I wish Friday had been there to model smart, socially awkward and loveable to me when I was a kid.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

It’s two years later …

Friday steps out of prison, a shell of her former self. She’s still wearing the same brown cardigan, but she swears she’s never solving mysteries again! Who is Friday kidding? She can’t suppress her brilliant deductive mind and is soon drawn back into the intrigues of Highcrest Academy.

Then Uncle Bernie rings, pleading with Friday to fly to Italy and help him protect the Uffizi Gallery from a team of art thieves – and she can’t say ‘no’ to family. Even if it means travelling to the city where Ian, her nemesis/ex-boyfriend is living.

Will Friday be able to protect Italy’s finest artworks? Will Melanie stay awake long enough to help her? And will Ian still be as gorgeous as a Greek god and twice as annoying?

Friday Barnes #8: Never Fear – R.A. Spratt

Things are changing at Highcrest Academy. There’s a new Headmaster, which made no sense to me when I learned about them towards the end of the last book. Sure, the previous Headmaster is currently recovering from a medical emergency but I didn’t think there was any way they would voluntarily retire.

It’s not that they love their job or having to deal with Friday, who’s fairly consistently sitting on the bench outside their office. It’s because their gambling addiction hasn’t left them with enough money to be able to retire. This apparent inconsistency is explained in this book.

That wasn’t the only thing that was odd about the last book, or this one for that matter. I don’t remember Friday getting hit on the head once in either book. That’s so un-Friday-like.

It’s not long into the new Headmaster’s reign before Friday is transferred from Year 8 to Year 12. This means she will be finishing high school in a matter of months, not years. Highcrest Academy is her home and Melanie, her best friend, is the closest thing she has to family (other than Uncle Bernie). She can’t imagine her life without either and is certain the new Headmaster is just trying to get rid of her. After all, it doesn’t seem as though Dr Belcredi is a fan of Friday.

‘It’s amazing how often you’re the one who find the problems that no-one else notices are there.’

‘I’m just observant,’ said Friday.

‘You’re a trouble-magnet,’ said Dr Belcredi.

Melanie has a boyfriend now, although in the last book he was her stalker. I’m not loving that stalking is portrayed as romantic.

There’s the mystery of the missing toilet paper, unexpected cake and the entire student body are sleeping in tents. The big mystery, even though it felt forgotten for part of the book, was the possibility of gold hidden somewhere at Highcrest Academy.

There chiselled into the sandstone, just visible under years of lichen and dirt were the words:

LATET INTUS IN AURUM

‘That’s Latin. It means “the gold lies within”,’ said Friday. ‘I always assumed it was a metaphor for a student’s potential, but maybe it literally means gold.’

A couple of minor inconsistencies didn’t make sense to me.

Shortly before Friday pulled the fire alarm we were told it was an hour before dinner and as such classes had finished for the day. Two pages later we learn that no one was scared when they evacuated because it meant they were getting “an afternoon off class”.

Friday reminds us she isn’t good at noticing changes to people’s physical appearance when Mirabella wails about the conspiracy to make her fat, yet in the last book Friday specifically mentioned another character losing 15 kilos.

I was glad that Malcolm had a role to play in this book and the new Headmaster, who I hated at first sight because I didn’t want the old Headmaster to be gone, grew on me towards the end. I loved that Binky had so much page time; he’s always adorable.

If my series binge had gone ahead as planned several years ago I would have been extremely disappointed with how this book ended. It seemed like it was the final book in the series when it was published and so much was left up in the air. Thankfully I have the ninth book on hand and I’ve already had a sneak peek at the end so I know there’s going to be a tenth.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Friday’s time at Highcrest is running out!

The new headmaster is turning everything upside down. Friday’s irritatingly high IQ has her fast-tracked to graduation, while a pair of incriminating pants puts Ian on the rocky road to expulsion.

When a rumour emerges of embezzled gold stashed on the school grounds, Friday is determined to uncover the truth. But some big questions remain: Can she stay out of detention long enough to solve the mystery? How will Melanie survive without Friday to tell her what class she’s in? And will Friday ever get that first kiss with Ian?

With implosions and explosions everywhere, Friday Barnes will have to use her head and get a grip on her beating heart in order to find the gold that lies within.

Friday Barnes #7: Bitter Enemies – R.A. Spratt

When we last saw Friday, she’d just survived four weeks at school camp. Waiting for her at Highcrest Academy were two of her siblings, Quasar and Orion. We’d previously heard about her four older siblings (the other two are called Quantum and Halley) but this is the first time we’ve met any of them.

The school year has just begun and Melanie and Ian are not looking forward to beginning Year 8 without Friday, who’s been studying in Switzerland at the best school in the world.

This year is the sesquicentennial (that’s the 150th anniversary, for all of you who aren’t Friday Barnes) of the school’s founder’s birth. In addition to the new meditation room that’s being constructed and the refurbishment of the exercise pool for the polo ponies, the previous Headmasters have been invited back to Highcrest Academy. They will be guest teaching for four weeks. As such, everyone is to be on their best behaviour.

‘There will be no mysteries!’ yelled the Headmaster. ‘I forbid it!’

While I always enjoy stories where kids go to camp, I missed the interaction with Highcrest Academy’s teachers in the previous book. I appreciated Mrs Cannon, the English teacher, quickly reminding me why I love her.

‘I never teach you anything because I’m lazy, and because I think it’s far better for you to figure it all out on your own. What’s the point in me telling you when you could learn for yourself?’

Not surprisingly, Friday quickly makes an impression with the four previous Headmasters, although it’s not a great one. There’s also mysteries to solve, including who is breaking into the school.

‘What on earth is she doing?’ asked Colonel Hallett.

‘Investigating,’ said the Headmaster. ‘Just wait, she’ll sniff something next.’

I was surprised that Ian didn’t know that Friday was returning to school, especially considering the fact that his mother is now married to Friday’s Uncle Bernie and he’s just spent the school holidays with them. Uncle Bernie would definitely have been kept in the loop. I’m finding it sadder and sadder that the rest of Friday’s family are so neglectful.

Friday found planets comforting, because unlike most of the people in her life, planets could be relied on to turn up at precise locations at predictable intervals.

At one point Melanie asks Ian if the Headmaster is asking a rhetorical question. Usually she’s the one identifying these for Friday so it’s inconsistent for her to be asking, unless she’s missing Friday so much at this point that she’s lost her ability to pick up on social nuances. Thankfully later in the book Melanie’s rhetorical question detection is back to normal.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

When four former headmasters arrive at Highcrest Academy to take part in the school’s anniversary celebrations, the students are warned to be on their best behaviour.

Unfortunately, no one told the headmasters to stay out of mischief too! Which means Friday Barnes soon has a case to solve. But unravelling the truth isn’t easy when the whole school is being forced to eat paleo because the cook is on a diet; her best friend’s brother won’t stop blubbering about the terrible boat accident he may or may not have caused; and Friday is being trailed by a mysterious admirer – or is it a stalker?

Can Friday find the facts among the mayhem? She’d better. The fate of Highcrest depends on it!

Friday Barnes #6: Danger Ahead – R.A. Spratt

‘The greatest lesson I learn from school is how to interact with other people.’

‘Really?’ said Melanie. ‘Because if that’s the case, you’re not doing too well at your studies.’

It’s almost time for Highcrest Academy’s Year 7 students to attend Camp Courage. This will require Friday to actually interact with people other than Melanie, her best friend. But first Friday will need to save Ian, who’s been kidnapped.

Once she’s at Camp Courage, Friday meets Geraldine, the ray of sunshine who runs the camp.

‘I like running a haunted camp. Fear of the undead is the only thing that keeps you brats in bed at night. I just wish the ghost would push more of you into the river!’

Friday and her fellow Houseboat campers spend the next four weeks peeling potatoes, collecting water and other activities that Friday is pretty sure don’t constitute wilderness survival skills. She does manage to work on her sarcasm though.

If only her Headmaster hadn’t specifically asked her to not solve any crimes while she’s at camp.

‘But we all know it’s only a matter of time before you uncover something, or expose something, or entrap somebody, or just say something unnecessarily rude.’

Of course, that was never going to happen, especially when there’s the case of the missing breakfast cereal and the case of the ghost of Ghost Mountain that need to be solved.

At least her recent burpee practice may prove helpful as she attempts further physical activity. And it wouldn’t be a Friday Barnes book if Friday didn’t get hit on the head (again!).

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

School camp … what could possibly go wrong?

Friday Barnes is forced to face her biggest fear – her own emotions! She must wave goodbye to Ian as he takes off to join his father in the Cayman Islands. But when your dad is a white-collar criminal, family reunions never go to plan. Ian is kidnapped en route and it’s up to Friday to rescue him.

On her return to school, the Headmaster has a treat in store – a four-week camp for students to learn wilderness survival skills! ‘Camp Courage’ is even worse than Friday imagined. And all her book smarts aren’t much help when she’s got wood to chop, potatoes to peel and latrines to dig.

Can Friday survive the great outdoors, debunk the legend of a camp ghost and make it back to Highcrest Academy alive? Only time (and a compass) will tell!

Friday Barnes #5: The Plot Thickens – R.A. Spratt

‘Urgh, I knew this was going too well. Heaven forbid we have a school occasion where Miss Barnes doesn’t interrupt and turn everything on its head.’

Friday and Ian’s already tenuous friendship takes a hit when Friday is infuriatingly right about Ian’s father. Ian responds by taking it out on her, devising elaborate pranks at her expense.

Just when Friday is considering leaving Highcrest Academy, three newcomers arrive. A famous artist is going to be teaching the students for eight weeks, culminating in the reveal of a mural and an art show.

There’s also a new and very enthusiastic PE teacher. Friday and Melanie are not pleased at all with this development as it may require them to actually participate. Friday is not coordinated at all and Melanie flat out refuses to do anything that resembles exercise. Friday does discover what a burpee is but that doesn’t mean she has to like it.

Finally, Highcrest Academy welcomes a new Year 8 student, Epstein Smythe.

Friday gets involved in more than her fair share of mysteries, including searching for the missing ‘Red Princess’, thwarting an attempted kidnapping of a “remarkably unremarkable student” and revealing the identity of the person who’s been adding contemporary elements to well known paintings.

‘If you’re up to something illicit but that is somehow for the greater good, could you please do a better job of hiding it from me?!’

She also has more than her fair share of head injuries. It seems like Friday is always getting a new bump on the noggin, whether she’s been knocked unconscious or she’s fainted at the sight of her own blood. Friday is much more emotional in this book than she usually is, although this is probably just a side effect of being hit on the head so many times.

There’s one thing that’s really irking me – some of the language used to describe people. I’ve previously been miffed by the way mental health has been made fun of. In this book I’m objecting to the term “bonkers” being used to describe someone with Alzheimer’s. This is so unnecessary, it’s not funny and the book would be better without it. I mentioned in a previous review that I read a first edition and it’s possible the words I didn’t like may not have made it into subsequent editions; I hope that is the case this time too.

I really enjoyed the inclusion of the new teachers and student and, despite my objection above, this book is my second favourite of the series so far (the first one holds a special place in my heart).

The further I get into the series the angrier I become at Friday’s neglectful parents and the more I appreciate how well the teachers get away with working so very little. I adore Friday and Melanie but it’s Binky, Melanie’s brother, who has overtaken everyone else to become my favourite character. He’s absolutely delightful and I desperately want him to have a happy ending with his princess.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Friday Barnes is being attacked on all fronts!

When Friday Barnes gets involved in her frenemy Ian Wainscott’s family dispute, it appears her knack for uncovering the truth may ruin their friendship once and for all.

Highcrest Academy is no longer a fun place to be. Ian has declared war on Friday and she is thinking of leaving … for good. Meanwhile, there’s two new teachers to contend with – a celebrity artist whose intentions are somewhat unclear, and an over-enthusiastic PE teacher on a fitness crusade. Between them and Ian, it’s going to be one dangerous term. Can Friday repair her friendship with Ian, restore her perfect school-life balance and work out who is committing the blatant acts of vandalism around Highcrest? No one said high school would be easy!

Friday Barnes #4: No Rules – R.A. Spratt

‘It’s hard enough running this school. Who’s going to figure out all the weird hijinks that go on if Friday isn’t here?’

When Friday returns to Highcrest Academy after sorting out her deportation problem, she finds the school in chaos. All of the teachers have been fired and the students are running amok.

Now there’s a new vice principal, VP Pete, who is fond of tie-dyed clothing and has oddly coloured feet. The school has been threatened with closure and everyone is supposed to be on their best behaviour, only someone didn’t get the memo. As usual, Friday is right in the thick of it.

‘Whenever there’s trouble, you’re right there.’

‘That’s only because you always ask me to fix it for you,’ said Friday.

Of course Melanie, Friday’s best friend, is there to help out when she’s not busy napping. There’s the case of the missing textbooks and the case of the missing furniture to solve. Then there’s the noticeable absence of Friday’s nemesis, Ian, who has been expelled.

‘I’ve solved bank robberies, thwarted smuggling operations and uncovered escaped convicts,’ said Friday. ‘Your problem is well within my skill set.’

Friday’s biggest problem, though? The cross country is coming up and it looks as though she is going to be forced to participate. Despite having a great number of strengths, coordination and athletic ability are not among them. This could be disastrous!

If you’re planning on reading this series, be sure to read them in order. Spoilers for previous books tend to be scattered throughout them.

Also make sure you don’t relax when Friday is told she’s allowed to enjoy some dessert for saving the day once again. That just means the cliffhanger is about to happen.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Friday Barnes has been deported to Switzerland! With their in-school detective gone, Highcrest Academy has descended into chaos. Someone’s fired all the teachers!

The Headmaster claims it wasn’t him, and suspicion soon turns to Ian Wainscott, but Friday won’t stand by and let her favourite nemesis take the blame. Apart from being innocent (probably), he’s seriously good-looking. There’s also the problem of the new vice principal and his questionable teaching methods. It’s hard to take someone seriously when they wear tie-dyed t-shirts.

Can Friday save Ian’s scholarship? Can she find the prankster before they bring down the school? Can she run the cross country? She’s certainly going to try … to do the first two, anyway.

Friday Barnes #3: Big Trouble – R.A. Spratt

Now that Friday has solved the mystery of her missing mother, she and her best friend, Melanie, have arrived back at school, along with Friday’s father. However, Dr Barnes is not the only new arrival at Highcrest Academy. Princess Ingrid of Norway has just arrived in a limousine.

‘But this isn’t a Disney movie,’ whispered Friday. ‘Princesses don’t just pop up out of nowhere.’

There’s also another new student, Debbie. Debbie and Princess Ingrid are roommates and their room is next to Friday and Melanie’s. This is especially convenient for eavesdropping.

With one of the Dr Barnes at Highcrest Academy (there are six of them), we get to see some of the family resemblance. It appears Friday isn’t the only Barnes with a fondness for brown cardigans.

‘I try to be quiet and go unnoticed,’ said Friday. ‘That’s the whole reason I wear brown cardigans so I’ll blend in.’

‘Whatever you’re doing, it’s not working,’ said the Headmaster. ‘So stop it.’

Friday is also now not the sole Barnes to have made their acquaintance with the school’s marble statue of Socrates.

I’ve noticed a few offhand remarks in each book in the series so far that I’ve found cringey. There were a couple of times in this book where derogatory terms were used to describe mental health and, call me overly sensitive if you’d like, but I wasn’t okay with that. I did read a first edition copy of this book so it’s possible that these may not appear in later editions.

Binky, Melanie’s older brother, has plenty of page time in this book and he’s absolutely adorable, in his bumbling way. I expected Friday’s father to have more interactions with his daughter than he did.

The main mystery of this book surrounds the identity and motivation of The Pimpernel, who has been stealing items from the school for many weeks. That doesn’t stop the students from participating in sporting activities, like climbing around attic spaces, playing polo or battling it out in the annual Potato Dash.

‘Something sneaky is going on at Highcrest Academy and I’m going to get to the bottom of it.’

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Friday Barnes has a new case, and this time it’s personal!

When Friday’s father turns up out of the blue, he brings his daughter some distressing news – Friday’s mother has been kidnapped! But who would want to kidnap a theoretical physicist? The Headmaster needs Friday’s help too, when Highcrest Academy is thrown into chaos by the arrival of a beautiful new student – Princess Ingrid of Norway. She’s rich, she’s royal and she’s got her eye on Ian Wainscott. Despite heightened security at the school, things start to go missing. It appears Highcrest Academy has been infiltrated by a master thief, The Pimpernel. 

Can Friday crack the case of her missing mother, reign in a royal brat and unmask the elusive Pimpernel? If it means she gets to ditch PE, then of course she can!

Friday Barnes #2: Under Suspicion – R.A. Spratt

‘She’s good at this type of thing.’

‘What, irritating people?’ asked Mrs Knox.

‘Yes, but also solving mysteries,’ explained Uncle Bernie.

When we last saw Friday Barnes she was being arrested, rudely interrupted while she was indulging in a second slice of chocolate cake, having just solved the case of Highcrest Academy’s swamp yeti. We pick up Friday’s story with her arrest.

‘Will you do “good cop, bad cop”, or are you doing it already and that’s why you’re being nice to me?’

Rather than becoming the central plot of this book, the story of Friday’s arrest is cleared up very quickly. Then we turn our attention to the problems of other Highcrest Academy students, who all now know that Friday is the girl detective that will solve them.

‘I assume you need help. Like the vast majority of students at this school, you have never spoken to me voluntarily.’

In this book, Friday applies her photographic memory to competitive baking and competitive rocket launching. She also solves a kidnapping and ponders the mystery of the man she met in the police station. Then we navigate our way around all of the holes that staff and students keep falling into all over the school grounds. We even discover why Friday is banned from the school library.

Melanie, Friday’s best (and possibly only) friend, is really growing on me. Her ability to go from vague to astute in an instant has endeared her to me and I find her fondness of naps very relatable.

We are introduced to a new Year 10 student, Christopher. The addition of a second handsome boy to the series immediately caused speculation of a ‘love triangle’, despite Friday and Ian denying they are in love with one another. Given Friday is only eleven I could do without so much of Melanie’s conversation revolving around her best friend’s potential love life.

Two books in and I’m already beginning to wonder if every book is going to end with the core mystery being solved and a sudden cliffhanger that comes out of nowhere. The mysteries are still fun though and I’m enjoying the creative laziness of many of Highcrest Academy’s teachers. I’m hoping Uncle Bernie finds a way to drop in during the next book for more than a few pages.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Who knew boarding school could be this perilous! 

When Friday Barnes cracked the case of Highcrest Academy’s mysterious swamp-yeti, the last thing she expected was to be placed under arrest. Now with the law on her back and Ian Wainscott in her face, Friday is not so sure boarding school was the smartest choice. From a missing or not-so-missing calculator to the appearance of strange holes in the school field, she is up to her pork-pie hat in crimes – and she swears not all of them are hers. There’s also new boy Christopher, who has taken quite a shine to Friday, to contend with.

Can Friday navigate the dangerous grounds of Highcrest Academy and decipher a decades-old mystery without getting caught in an unexpected love triangle?

Friday Barnes #1: Girl Detective – R.A. Spratt

Friday Barnes is currently my favourite girl detective. I first read this book in 2016 and my reread has been just as enjoyable. Friday is eccentric, extraordinarily smart and forthright.

Friday was named after the day on which she was born. Well, she would have been if it had actually been a Friday. She was really born on a Thursday but her ever distracted (and dare I say, neglectful) parents confused the days. Their minds were no doubt on quasars or electrons at the time. Don’t believe me? Friday’s older siblings are named Quantum, Quasar, Orion and Halley.

Friday essentially raised herself and until recently has spent most of her time in silence, reading anything she can get her hands on. Faced with the problem of needing to attend high school, despite passing the entrance exam to study medicine at university, eleven year old Friday elects to send herself to an elite boarding school. She pays for the tuition with the reward money she earned from solving the case of a missing multi-million dollar diamond.

Once she arrives at Highcrest Academy, Friday becomes known as the resident mystery solver, taking on cases of missing homework and the swamp yeti who has been terrorising the students.

‘Swamp yetis don’t exist.’

She also finds a potential nemesis/love interest and spends much more time sitting on the bench outside the Headmaster’s office than she does in a classroom.

‘Sometimes I wonder if you are startlingly gifted,’ said the Headmaster, ‘or you simply have access to some sort of illicit counter-intelligence mind-reading device.’

Occasionally she even needs to suck on a lollipop when she’s considering all of the variables of a problem, something she only does when she’s “processing a difficult conundrum.”

Despite Friday’s off the charts IQ, she’s not the best at picking up on social cues, although she is slowly getting better at detecting rhetorical questions. It’s lucky for her that her new roommate, Melanie Pelly, notices things that other people don’t.

‘My brain just does it. The hard part is getting it to notice things that are useful.’

Uncle Bernie, although he doesn’t have a great deal of page time in the first book, quickly became my favourite character. He appreciates Friday for who she is (brown cardigans and all) and is the only family member that appears to even notice her existence.

I’ve been planning a Friday Barnes binge for several years. With the release of the ninth book I’ve decided it’s finally time.

I would have adored this series as a kid and am having fun with them so far as an adult. I’ve yet to decide if Friday and I would have been best friends or mortal enemies if we were in the same class. Either way, I know I wouldn’t have been bored.

Beware: this book ends in a cliffhanger.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Imagine if Sherlock Holmes was an eleven-year-old girl! 

When girl detective Friday Barnes solves a bank robbery she uses the reward money to send herself to the most exclusive boarding school in the country, Highcrest Academy.

On arrival, Friday is shocked to discover the respectable school is actually a hotbed of crime. She’s soon investigating everything from disappearing homework to the Yeti running around the school swamp. That’s when she’s not dealing with her own problem – Ian Wainscott, the handsomest boy in school, who inexplicably hates Friday and loves nasty pranks.

Can Friday solve Highcrest Academy’s many strange mysteries, including the biggest mystery of all – what’s the point of high school?