The Children’s Book Review | March 26, 2019
Written by SP O’Farrell
Age Range: 8-12
Hardcover: 148 pages
Publisher: Brandylane Publishers, Inc. (May 13, 2019)
What to expect: Mystery, Paris Setting, Art Heist, and Music
Simone LaFray is an avid reader that prefers the life of a wallflower. These qualities well suit her sleuthing lifestyle as the most promising agent within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. When she is not walking in the footprints of her spy mother, Cpt. Julia C. LaFray, Simone can be found working in her father’s Parisian patisserie. Founded in 1893 by her great- great-great-grandfather, LaFray’s Patisserie is perhaps the most well known patisserie in all of France.
While Simone’s mom is away on an undisclosed business trip, a mysterious man with red hair starts appearing. Could it be Reynard Baresi? Also known as “la Volpe Rossa” (the Red Fox), the most well known thief in the world. The Ministry believes he could be in Paris to pull off an art heist. Next, the family’s sacred recipe books are stolen around the same time as the president and primary stockholder of the largest confectionary company in Europe has her offer to purchase the Lafray’s books declined. Also, it appears that ingredients in the patisserie have been tampered with, ruining the taste of the much-loved LaFray delicacies. Could this be the work of the Red Fox, too?
LaFray’s Patisserie is an institution; Simone and her dad will not let their fourth generation business go under. They will attend the annual Chocolatiers’ Ball and attempt to create a display of chocolate so decadently beautiful—without their recipe books—which they hope will prove they should remain in business. And what about the art heist? Let’s just say that mystery, art, and music collide for a satisfying conclusion.
SP O’Farrell has created a finely crafted story and readers will be actively engaged in piecing together the information. The characters have been carefully fashioned, and you can bet there may be one or two red herrings—no spoilers here though. Simone is a particularly well formed character and her sharp sleuthing senses easily come through the descriptive prose: “My skin relaxed subtly to the slight drop in temperature and my shoes were getting splashed with each step across the heavier wet grass. … With another step, I smelled warming bread, fry- ing onions, and sweet calissons pluming from the vending carts outside the wall.” There’s also the stonewalled Uncle Giles, sweet sister Mia, French bulldog Gigi, spunky friend Gloria V. Cantone, and let’s not forget Paris—Paris, when written well, always plays the role of a character because it is such a majestic setting.
If this book were a recipe it would be best written down as:
- One part Charlie and the Chocolate Factory—essence of Arthur Slugworth
- Two parts award-winning author Blue Balliett—artful mystery spice
- Ten parts original mix of S P O’Farrell’s secret page-turning ingredients
Simone LaFray and the Chocolatiers’ Ball is a fantastic addition to the mystery book genre and concludes with, what feels like, the promise of a sequel. It’s just a bonus that the strength that can come from a connected family shines through.
About the Author
SP O’Farrell is the author of the Simone LaFray middle grade book series, with Book #1 set to release in May of 2019. He lives in the northeastern United States with his wife Emily, sons Patrick and Michael, and their ever-dozing Labrador, Scout.
For more information, visit: www.facebook.com/SimoneLaFray
Dedicated Reviews allow authors and illustrators to gain prompt visibility for their work. This is a sponsored*, non-biased review of “Simone LaFray and the Chocolatiers’ Ball,” by SP O’Farrell. Learn more about getting a book review …