Tracey Hawkins – The Riddle of Tanglewood Manor

Storytorch Press, Australia 2022
Cover illustration and design by Sarah Davies

The Riddle of Tanglewood Manor combines a number of elements that appeal to young readers. It’s an adventure with two young heroes, siblings Sam and Harry.

There’s a spooky old house, historical characters that come to life via the medium of time travel, riddles to solve and discoveries about the past. There is also the discovery of the nature of bravery and family bonds.

Tracey Hawkins talks to Barbie about The Riddle of Tanglewood Manor

When Sam and Harry’s Dad inherits Tanglewood Manor from Uncle Charles, the family finds a crumbling old ruin of a place, its entrance flanked by forbidding gargoyles, its wiring and plumbing kaput, its verandah boards rotting and its kitchen unworkable. However, they also find a place full of mystery and lots of open space, well away from the city and its problems – the hint of the pandemic as motivation for moving to the country is apposite.

Like most young chaps, Sam and Harry like to explore and they venture into the mysterious rooms of Tanglewood, only to find they cannot escape without putting their minds to work, helping one another and solving a series of riddles.

The past and the house itself seem reluctant to let them go and they have both scary and funny moments trying to understand what is happening. The concept of a past that is different from their present is also a difficult intellectual tussle.

This book is full of fun but also touches on aspects of Australian history which will intrigue curious young readers. The house is 112 years old, and this places the time travellers into a fascinating period.

Tracey Hawkins is adept at writing the youthful male voice, no doubt drawing on her own life experience and intensive workshopping with school students. The many conversations which drive action in this novel are true to life and infinitely relatable to contemporary adults, be they parents or grandparents. So too is the push and pull of the relationship these siblings have, with its ebbing balance of power and inter-dependence.

Young boys and humour are never too far apart and this author perfectly captures that sense of youthful buoyance and bravado along with the honest admission of sometimes being a bit scared.

Two more books will follow in this series. We look forward to seeing where Sam and Harry and their family travel in time and place and what important ideas underpin the tales. Books like The Riddle of Tanglewood Manor are a delight because they provide multiple layers – some entertain the young and others evoke thought in the adult reader.

Thank you to Storytorch Press for my review copy and to Tracey for such an enjoyable chat about writing.