We meet twelve year old Ivy Pocket, a self-proclaimed brilliant girl with ‘the natural instincts of a philosophy professor’. A ’lady’s maid of the highest quality’ she performs all her duties bringing order and cheer wherever she goes.
However, Ivy’s image of herself isn’t shared by her employer Countess Carbunkel who, after a ‘great disaster’ involving turtle soup and the cream of French society, flees Paris for South America for no other reason than to ensure that she never sees Ivy again.
“Calm yourself dear,” I said [Ivy to the Countess in front of all the guests] “Dribbling is no crime. I’m sure your mother was a dribbler and your father too.”
Ivy finds herself left alone in a city with little prospects until she is summoned to the deathbed of The Duchess of Trinity. The Duchess entrusts Ivy with a priceless Clock Diamond necklace that has mysterious powers, and employs her to transport it to England for a handsome fee.
“the stone does not deal in fantasy , child – only facts; what was, what is and what will be.”
The job is simple, take the Diamond and deliver it to the Butterfield estate in Suffolk and present it to the Duchess’s estranged childhood friends’ granddaughter ‘Matilda’ as a gift at her twelfth birthday. If Ivy completes the mission that she’ll be paid £500, but she must promise never to tell anyone about the Diamond, never let it leave her side, and NEVER put it on.
As Ivy journeys to England she is befriended by Miss Always (dear, trusting, dim witted creature) who is fascinated by Ivy’s mission. Ivy learns that the Duchess was murdered moments after she left, and that the Diamond can bring visions. As her journey continues, mystery and peril follow her. Ivy is attacked, starts to see the deceased Duchesses ghost, and hears rumours of the Diamonds power and origins that hint of other worlds and a dangerous evil mistress. Will Ivy deliver the Diamond as promised?
“…you have the complexion of a boiled lobster, your skin is practically crying for moisture. Fear not, I have just the remedy.”
“…I scooped up a large heling of cheesecake and splattered it on the old bags face. Then another blob. Then another. She was making strange noises by that point – not unlike an injured piglet-which I took down to the soothing qualities of the cheesecake”
This is an outrageously funny book, with lively illustrations by John Kelly and is a much recommended read.