And now for something completely different … not sure why I decided to pick this up – I think it’s a combination of my love for serialised stories and it’s a nostalgic throwback to the types of books I used to consume in large quantities from my local library when I was a teenager.

This is a new series by Australian crime writer, Gabrielle Lord, for young adults with an interesting premise – it takes place over the course of a year from 1 January to 31 December (thus the title of the series is Conspiracy 365) and broken into twelve volumes, one for each month. Also interesting is that it’s on a publishing schedule of coming out one volume per month, so you can’t actually buy anything more recent than the May volume at this stage. I’m not sure how well it’s selling amongst young people, but I think these kind of publishing stunts are great fun, and I wish they’d do them more often. (It reminds me of how much I enjoyed reading Stephen King’s The Green Mile back in the 90s, which came out serialised in six episodes.)

So what’s the story in this one? It reminds me very much of 24 for teenagers. 15-year-old Callum Ormond is walking along the street on 31 December when a man runs up to him and tells him that he has to hide from “them” for 365 days till 31 December next year. Before we find out any more, an ambulance pulls up, some guys jump out, inject the mysterious man and drag him away. All Callum knows it that it is something to do with his father who returned from a trip to Ireland the previous year and died. In his last days, his father wasn’t able to speak, but left him with some mysterious drawings.

Once that happens, it’s on for young and old. Over the course of the next 31 days in January, Callum gets shipwrecked in a sabotaged tinny that leaves him floundering in shark-infested waters, has continuous run-ins with his Uncle Rafe (his father’s unpleasant twin brother), gets himself kidnapped by a criminal gang, gets framed for attacking his uncle and sister, goes on the run from the law and ends up literally up to his neck in trouble as 31 January comes to a cliffhanger ending.

You have to suspend an awful lot of disbelief with this story – especially the fact that Callum really wouldn’t say anything to his Mum about what was going on, but when I was 15, I was completely prepared to suspend that disbelief, so I can still do it now. I’m not suggesting any adults out there would want to read it, but if you have young teenage boys, they’re going to love this series. And certainly I’m going back for more. Where else do you get sharks, two groups of criminals and mysterious drawings in less than 200 pages?

3 ½ out of 5.


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