Review of The Notorious Scarlett and Browne, by Jonathan Stroud, read by Sophie Aldred

The Notorious Scarlett and Browne

by Jonathan Stroud
read by Sophie Aldred

Listening Library, 2023. 12 hours, 17 minutes.
Review written May 24, 2023, from a library eaudiobook.
Starred Review

This is the second book about outlaws Scarlett McLain and Albert Browne, set in a future England after the Cataclysm, when people are huddled into towns for safety against animals that have evolved in dangerous ways and zombie-like once-human “tainted” cannibals.

The book reminds me of the author’s wonderful Lockwood & Co. series. As in the earlier series, you’ve got a feisty and capable girl teaming up with a boy to do daring exploits. They’re of indeterminate age – somewhere in their teens, but living on their own and using their wits to get by.

In this case, Scarlett is using Albert’s mind-reading abilities to help them rob banks — and now they’re taking on the antiquities in the Faith Houses. But in this book, both their pasts catch up with them. For Scarlett, the Brothers of the Hand catch up with her and use some powerful leverage to get her to do one more dangerous job for them. In Albert’s case, a Faith House Operative with powers like Albert’s own comes after them. Albert’s going to have to learn to control and use his powers to be able to get past him.

This book is billed for kids, but let me warn you that there are heavy topics. We learn more about Scarlett’s back story, and there are some horrific things. And when she went to a Faith House for help, they turned a crowd against her. Oh, and there’s plenty of shooting, killing, dumping rocks on people, and letting loose the tainted to eat people. But no sex! So maybe that’s why it’s considered a children’s book?

And there’s lots and lots of tension, too. There are several deadlines in the course of this book — and they’re literally deadlines, when if not met, someone’s going to die. And every time, a solution comes at the very last minute. This warning is to lean toward giving it to older kids — you should have an idea what your kids can handle — but I for one love the series so much.

Of course, Sophie Aldred’s English accent adds to my enjoyment, and the voices she uses for Scarlett and Albert are perfect. I love these characters and hope for a five-book series, like Lockwood & Co. so I can spend much more time with them. Enjoy two kids getting out of horribly tight situations with cleverness and skill. Enjoy Albert’s irrepressible looks on the bright side along with Scarlett’s sarcastic retorts and amazing skill with a gun. In this book, they gain notoriety indeed, and it ends with a definite direction for future books. Hooray! May they come soon.

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Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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