Guest Post – Diaries, Writing and Detectives! by Julia Lee

I’m super excited to have the wonderful Julia Lee on Tales today to celebrate the release of the second Nancy Parker mystery, Nancy Parkers Spooky Speculations.

Nancy Parkers Spooky Speculations was released on the 5th January 2017 published by OUP and is set to be another cracking mystery!

A funny and energetic middle-grade mystery, narrated part in the third person and part through Nancy’s illustrated journal. Follow-up to Nancy Parker’s Diary of Detection.

So today in a fab guest post Julia talks all about diaries, writing and detectives…..

And if you use those detective skills there may also be a giveaway at the bottom of this post!

About The Books

On this day 24th June 1920 I turned fourteen.

I plan to have a very exciting future now that I have thrown off the SHACKLES of SCHOOL! A detective is what I would most like to be. I cannot think of any reason why I could not be one. Except perhaps I am too young. And I don’t like blood.

Nancy Parker has recently been engaged in her first position – as a housemaid for the very modern Mrs Bryce. It’s not Nancy’s dream job (she’d rather be investigating crimes like they do in her beloved six-penny thrillers) but as Mrs Bryce starts to entertain her new neighbours with lavish parties, it becomes clear that something strange and interesting might be afoot. Local burglaries, a cook with a deep, dark secret – and Mrs Bryce’s own glamorous but murky past.

Will Nancy solve the mysteries while still keeping on top of her chores?

A hilarious and energetic middle-grade mystery, narrated part in the third person and part through Nancy’s journal.

Maidservants, Mystery, and Murder! Everyone’s favourite housemaid-detective is back! Now Nancy has a new job working at Oxcoombe Grange. It’s great except for one thing – Nancy is convinced the house is haunted! Ella Otter, now a reluctant pupil at nearby Seabourne Grammar School for Girls, demands a scientific investigation. Together, Nancy and Ella set out to do some spooky snooping, and to uncover the mysteries of the Grange’s cellars. But in doing so they make a few enemies, discover a few surprising secrets, and put themselves into a little more danger than they were bargaining for . . .

A funny and energetic middle-grade mystery, narrated part in the third person and part through Nancy’s illustrated journal. Perfect for fans of Murder Most Unladylike and The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow.

You can buy these books here or from your local bookshop

Diaries, Writing and Detectives! 

11th January. Got up. Had breakfast. Went to school. Maths test. Raining again.

It’s easy to see why the diaries I began each new year in my schooldays never lasted more than a few weeks. Entries like this (they were ALL like this) only showed how unexciting my life was. I couldn’t seem to find my own voice in these words, plus I cringed at starting sentences with ‘I’. It was all too self-conscious, too boring, too – aargh, just fling the wretched thing across the room!!

So, with such a failed record of diary-keeping, what do I do? Come up with a series of children’s books in the form of a diary. It’s so much more fun to write one from someone else’s point of view.

I am writing this on the train on my way to begin a New Chapter in my life! That accounts for the slitely wobbly handwriting…

That’s how Nancy Parker starts her second adventure. She’s so much more enthusiastic about everything than I was at 14. Ok, it is a detective diary, so she’s bound to see more action than I ever did.  The year is 1920 – and, just coincidentally, the dawn of the Golden Age of English crime writing from which I have ‘borrowed’ a few ideas. Nancy is a bright but poorly-educated London girl. Her only real option in life, like so many from her background, is to go into service as a lowly maidservant.

But Nancy has big dreams and bags of courage.  More than anything she wants to be a detective and doesn’t really see why that shouldn’t happen.  She loves lurid crime stories and her brain works overtime on theories about those around her, finding suspicious behaviour just about everywhere she looks. And who is better placed to spot such things than a housemaid: unimportant, unnoticed, but expected to be working hard behind the scenes?

I can never resist a bit of a culture-clash between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ in my books – it’s an ever-present part of life and great for creating dramatic tension. The upstairs-downstairs nature of Nancy’s world gives me plenty of scope for this. Especially when she meets some mystery-loving children from the other side of the divide.

Writing Nancy’s journal entries let me really explore the way she expresses herself. She doesn’t hold back on giving her opinions. When events are really momentous, Nancy puts them in capital letters with lots of exclamation marks. And adds comments in brackets.  So I can indulge my love of !!! And of ( ). Even of ***. My editor at Oxford Children’s Books encouraged me to ramp up Nancy’s lists of suspicions and suspects, her diagrams and sketches, and the bits of evidence gathered and stuck into her notebook for safekeeping. Designer Holly Fulbrook and illustrator Chloe Bonfield went to town on how it all looks.

Does anyone keep an actual paper diary these days? But if you’ve started a new one, in whatever form – even if you’re not really struggling yet – think of it as a journal. Ignore the tyranny of daily entries. Just put in the momentous or funny or ridiculous things whenever they happen. Draw sketches, maps and plans, stick or scan in pictures, tickets and lists. Or just make stuff up, like I did.

And read Nancy Parker for inspiration! (Don’t hold back on those !!!)

You can buy Nancy Parker’s Spooky Speculations here or at your local book shop

About Julia Lee

I’ve been making up stories for as long as I can remember. As a young child I was ill quite a bit, which meant I could spend lots of time lying in bed, reading – bliss.

I grew up in London, studied English at university, and have an MA in Creative Writing. I have worked in education and for children’s charities, particularly in the field of disability. My career has really been a series of accidents, as I tended to fall into jobs rather than seeking them out, because all the time I secretly wanted to be a writer!

I have written award-winning short stories and a novel for adults as Julia Widdows, and also researched and edited a book about disability, inclusion and everyday life.

I have two sons, and live in Sussex with my husband and an unhelpful cat.

You can find out more about Julia on her website –

Or why not follow Julia on twitter – @JuliaLeeAuthor


With thanks to the lovely people at OUP I have 5 copies of this wonderful book to giveaway to 5 lucky winners!

UK Only

Ends 18/01/2017

Please do check the terms and conditions on the rafflecopter giveaway before entering

Good Luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

A huge thank you to the wonderful Julia for such a wonderful post!

Another huge big thank you to Hannah at OUP for organising and for being so super wonderful!

Have you read any Nancy Parker books?  What did you think?  What was your favourite part?  If you have not read it yet have we tempted you to go and grab a copy?  Are you starting a diary this New Year?   I would love to hear from you!  Why not leave a comment using the reply button at the top of this review or tweet me on twitter using @chelleytoy!

Happy Reading!


Written by

I am often known to be a bit clumsy and a little loopy! Book loving (obsessed), theatre loving, slasher film loving csi geek! Winner of UKYABA Champion Newcomer 2015 and nominated for Champion of Social Media 2016 and Blogger Of The Year 2016! © 2014 - 2021 Michelle Toy All Rights Reserved

You may also like...

3 Responses

  1. Lisa Rowsell says:

    I haven’t read any of the books so I’m really hoping to nab a copy of this one to get stuck into.

  2. Carolyn Malsher says:

    Hope to win a copy of this for my school library. The first one is very popular with our students. x

  3. Shelley White says:

    I know my nieces would love this book!