Page 45 Review by Stephen
A brand-new, break-neck adventure for Young Readers which has a lot more layered beneath its furry surface than you might initially suspect.
Here learned linguist Professor Wrenfew explains the mystery of the third pictorial Incan language which our intrepid mice have discovered carved on an ancient stone and sandwiched between two surprisingly similar Egyptian and Greek accounts of their gods venting wrath on unfaithful worshippers.
"It was Viracochia who created the sun, the moon, and the stars, and set them all in motion, thus beginning time.
"From the stones of the earth, he sculpted the first race and breathed life into them.
"Brainless giants that they were, they disobeyed and displeased him, so he punished them with a great darkness and floods."
And that's when my smiles - catalysed by something I'd already spotted back at the Egyptian dig - turned into a big, fat grin! I give you no more clues, but I don't think I've ever seen this done in an anthropomorphic story before.
It is a perfect comicbook moment because you'll only be able to put two and two together by spotting what's implied visually in the Mayan Mouse mythology, harking back as it does to the arid excavation site.
"As the waters cleared, he set about making a second race from the smaller stones, more intelligent than the first. When they emerged, he divided them into groups and taught them different customs, languages, and songs."
That one, I'll tell you: they're mice.
These mice have now evolved to the equivalent of our Victorian era and this has a delightfully period feel, Sara Dunkerton's eye for fashion and body language matched by her eye for colour which is consistently dry and sandy both back in Egypt and then in London, before bursting into something young eyes will find wondrous when the secrets of the stone are revealed!
Unfortunately our mice are in trouble.
It was Professor Harvest-Scott who made the astonishing finds in his archaeological dig, but first his camp was ransacked by rogues then, less than a week later, his fellow researcher Sellsey went missing along with many of his notes. Summoned by his old friend Cornelius Field, the dashing Jack Redpath flies into Cairo just as Victoria Jones of the London Guardian newspaper is due to report both on the unearthed [redacted] and on the mysterious stone carvings.
But en route to the site Jack and Cornelius are ambushed by a sniper, delaying them just long enough for a third party to make its Machiavellian move. It seems they know more about the stone than Professor Harvest-Scott himself, and they're crafty enough to extract its meaning by any means necessary
This has all the elements of a classic kids' adventure like TINTIN itself: secrets and experts and exotic locations; infiltration, reputation and ducking for cover.
Moreover, more than a little lateral thinking gone into it. Most of the mice may scoot about on off-track motorbikes and slink about London in sexy Hispano Suizas, but where humans would hump up on a camel then our dessert rats use spiky African Armadillo Lizards as steeds. Better still, for the heavy lifting they employ beetles who can in real life carry umpteen times their own body weight about. Clever!
Right, so you have bought your daughter, son, nephew or niece this thrilling adventure. Well done, you! And you bought another copy for yourself. Well, quite right too! But I bet you never expected the Sara Dunkerton sketchbook in the back whose pencil work is a veritable masterclass in pistol-packing, punch-throwing pugilism. The eager young artists in your family will be copying and learning from those poses for hours!