Saturday, March 26, 2011

Crooks Tour

Crooks Tour was the very first Jane Shaw book that I read, and it is one of the easiest books of hers to find. It was originally published by Collins in 1962 with the artwork shown above. When the book was reissued by The Children's Press a few years later, the girls' clothes were redrawn to look more modern, as you can see below. The story is a single title, not part of a series, recounting the adventures of Scottish school girls Ricky, Julie and Fay as they go on a school trip that takes them to France and Switzerland. Ricky, the blonde girl, is always on the lookout for crooks, hoping to unmask some master criminal's fiendish plots, and throughout the journey she imagines that crime is going on all around her. However, a little investigating shows that the alleged criminals are just oridnary people going about their business, resulting in a lot of teasing from Julie and Fay. However, in the end she does end up becoming unwittingly involved in a minor smuggling ring. Jane Shaw's son, Ian Evans, explains in Susan and Friends why there were so many smugglers in his mother's books: "...in those early postwar years, there were many complications [when travelling abroad] involving currency exchange, excise duty (hence the frequent smuggling themes in Jane Shaw!) and language barriers, few of which exist today". Along with Susan, Ricky became one of the author's most beloved characters, the idiosyncratic Scottish heroine. Crooks Tour is certainly one of Jane Shaw's best known and enjoyable books.