The Key to Finding Jack is a gripping mystery, resonating with warmth and depth, which centres on family, relationships and friendship. The power of the writing immersed me in the lives of Flick and her family, feeling their pain, their hopes, their closeness. This is a mystery, but it is a subtle and heartfelt mystery that gently swept me into its entanglement and kept me utterly invested from start to finish.
Flick has a close bond with her older brother Jack who loves practical jokes and riddles and enjoys sharing them at school and with Flick. Rather than going to university to study law as his barrister father expects, Jack travels to Peru during his gap year where he is reported missing after a devastating earthquake. The family are keen to find out what has happened to Jack and live in hope that they will be reunited with him.
Flick discovers a key which Jack has left behind with a message: For S.F. to keep until I’m back. This discovery becomes an intriguing puzzle that Flick is determined to solve as she traces the initials to people Jack knows in the hope that they will lead her to her beloved older brother.
I really enjoyed Flick’s discoveries as she unravels the mystery behind the key, but will this be enough to find her missing brother? As Flick connects with a range of people who are important in Jack’s life, who he has had a lasting impact upon, their reminiscences stir memories for Flick, and discoveries are made which give her a deeper insight into her brother’s character. This leads her to question how well she really knows her brother. How much of himself has he kept hidden from her, and she from him?
Flick is an incredibly sympathetic young girl. She is hurting at the loss of her brother yet has the strength and courage to continue to hope, and not give up on finding him. She puts her energy into following the clues opened by the key which takes her on a path to finding out that her brother has hidden depths which give her a new insight into his character. I really loved that the key gave Flick the opportunity to re-connect with her Grandma through shared sadness and memories.
I also loved learning about Jack through Flick. Jack has haemophilia which does not stop him from following the path he has chosen. He is so much more than the practical joker who gets detention, the riddle-giving doting older brother, and discovering more about him through his relatives and friends is such a wonderful part of this story. Flick is given an insight into her brother that she already understood at an intuitive level, but has it reinforced through others, and I found this a fascinating aspect of this story.
I also really enjoyed the mystery within a mystery element with Flick, a keen writer, writing her own Victorian mystery centring on a mother and her missing daughter which helps her escape from her real world and forget her reality for a while, even though there are parallels between her story and her reality.
The juxtaposition between the weight of expectations from family and the strength it takes to live your own life, making your own choices is explored sensitively. The family’s pain and hope as they search for Jack from afar is heartachingly portrayed, but what really resonates is the closeness and connection they have as they bond over their shared loss.
At the heart of this mystery is finding the courage to be yourself and follow your dreams, even if they don’t fit someone else’s aspirations for you; having the strength not to lose hope in the face of adversity; and, the close bond between siblings even in separation. A wonderfully heart-warming story.
Thank you to Zephyr and Fritha Lindqvist for a review copy in exchange for my honest opinion.