Sharing the joy of children’s books

Good Red Herring


There is a world that exists beside our own, though we wouldn’t know it. It is a world of vampires, werewolves, private investigators, shapeshifters, and even humans. Oh, and magic. Lots and lots of magic.

Good Red HerringSalmon Farsade – university student, half-human, aura-reader, and inhabitant of the magical world of Muinbeo – finds herself up to her ears in a troubling murder mystery.

Fen Maguire, a secretary to one of Muinbeo’s senators, has been murdered, her body found alone in the cold night, and no one is talking. There are plenty of suspects, and plenty of dead ends, and only Salmon and her ‘despotes’ (academic mentor), vampiric detective McCabe, can discover the tragic events of that night and bring Fen’s killer to justice.

Maxwell peppers references throughout the book to other works of art and literature that the careful reader will delight in. She draws heavily from Irish popular culture and Irish mythology, but intersperses these references with those from other cultures, too, making Good Red Herring an intense, fully-realised world that demands a good memory and an eye for detail.

That said, there are a few things about the novel that detract from its otherwise enjoyable story. The faux-academic footnotes can be intrusive and distracting, and at times, the plot speeds by so quickly – changes of point of view, changes of location, of time of day – that it makes the narrative difficult to follow. The depth of the worldbuilding, particularly the creation of so much vocabulary and elaborate names, can also at times be overwhelming, making the reference lists at the beginning of the book invaluable.

If, however, the reader perseveres and enters into the contract Maxwell is offering them, they will be well-rewarded. This is not a fantasy book to give to someone unfamiliar with the fantasy genre. Rather, it is the book to give to the avid fantasy reader in your life, the one who is looking for a challenge. This reviewer imagines that second reads of Good Red Herring would be exponentially more rewarding.

Note: Due to the intricacy of Maxwell’s world-building, this reviewer recommends purchasing a physical copy of Good Red Herring rather than an e-book, so as to make use of the map and vocabulary lists at the front of the novel while reading.

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About the author

Julie Le Blanc

Julie Le Blanc completed her PhD on Irish and British Children’s Literature in Trinity College Dublin in 2016. She’s particularly interested in medieval Irish stories, outer space, and hobbits, but not necessarily in that order. She can be found scribbling stories of her own and reading voraciously in the nooks and crannies of Dublin’s coziest cafés. She also frequents Providence, Rhode Island’s pastry shops, but don’t tell anyone.

1 Comment

  1. Hi Julie – I’m very glad you enjoyed the book (despite the footnotes!) and thanks a lot for taking the trouble to review it.
    (P.S., I would love to have done your PhD, rather than my own!)

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