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Portraits and Poison

Book Synopsis

The second book in the thrilling middle grade mystery series, perfect for fans of Robin Steven’s Murder Most Unladylike. Set in eighteenth-century London, with all the fun and zest of Hamilton and inspired by real Black British historical figures.

The Lizzie and Belle Mysteries: Drama and Danger has been shortlisted for the Waterstones 2023 Children’s Book Prize!

Agents of history. Partners in Mystery. Sisters in solving crime.

Twelve-year-olds Lizzie Sancho and Dido Belle are from different worlds – Lizzie lives in Westminster in her dad’s tea shop, while Belle is an heiress being brought up by her aunt and uncle at grand Kenwood House – but they both share a love of solving mysteries. And after saving Lizzie’s father from attempted murder surely there is no threat too challenging for this detective duo?

It’s the summer of 1777, the night of the grand unveiling of the Sancho-Mansfields family portrait – and a celebration of friendship, family, and freedom! But all too soon things take a dark turn – the painting has been stolen! Now it is time for Lizzie and Belle to put their sleuthing skills to the ultimate test, following a trail of thefts, kidnappings and even poisonings that haunts the twisting London streets.
With a grand conspiracy afoot, and a mysterious organisation threatening their closest friends and family, who can Lizzie and Belle trust?

Once again it is up to the two girls to unveil the truth and put an end to the villainy that plagues the city.

Our Review Panel says...

The second book in the ‘Lizzie and Belle Mysteries’ series sees the young best friends and amateur detectives use their skills to investigate the theft of a historic portrait which in turn reveals further mysteries and crimes which they must solve. Through this investigation the reader will learn some of the critical thinking skills used when looking at art, and how we can learn from historical artworks in the context of our knowledge of the time.

Set in Georgian London, this book illuminates the multiracial history of Britain, and the struggles and injustices faced by Black people in a place where many powerful people thrived on keeping slavery alive. It also demonstrates that White people had an important role, as well as responsibility, to offer support to Black anti-slavery activists and to challenge the White slave owners of the time. Many of the characters and events in this book are based on real people and things that happened, and there is a lot of scope to research the story of the real Dido Elizabeth Belle, including the painting of her and her cousin from the 1770s. This is a fantastic mystery story, which could also lead to discussions about race, art, and friendship and families.

Author JT Williams also visited our blog to discuss the role of fiction in bringing history to life for children.

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Portraits and Poison

portraits and poison

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