The Double Life of Cassiel Roadnight manages to deal with heavy themes in the style of a light, satisfying read.

It is important to note that the cover, the easy-to-read formatting and the simple storytelling style all seem to be directed at a younger audience (perhaps 10 to 12), yet the serious themes and occasional bad language are more suited to an older readership (I’d suggest mature 13s to 18).

As a good murder mystery the story is built on lies and secrets, murder and money, and since much of this happens within the family, the overall situation is quite nasty. There’s even medicinal use of prescription drugs to help some of the adults to cope.

However, there is no gratuitous detail that leaves you with too much information, and most of the story doesn’t deal with these themes at all. Instead, it focuses on the guadual unravelling of a mystery which doesn’t come clear until the end.

And most of the characters are not as bad as they seem. In fact, there is a strong undercurrent of goodness that grows out of the misfortune, and it is precisely those who’ve suffered most who have the strongest yearning for a loving family and a desire to right the wrongs of the past.

Of course the main evil character has suitably distorted morals, but as soon as we are able to see beneath his careful facade his actions are clearly deplorable.

All in all it’s an easy, engaging and worthwhile read that offers some variety to the standard teen action-adventure.

Clare Cannon lives in Sydney where she is editor of The Good Reading Guide and manager of Portico Books,...