Jacqueline Wilson has become such a huge success as a children's writer that it's easy to forget that she started out as a novelist by writing a handful of rather good crime novels. I remember haunting Blackwell's Paperback Shop when I was a student and there were always a couple of her books in the green Penguin series on the shelves.In those days I yearned to be a published crime writer, and I was impressed that someone who was only about ten years older than me had already established herself in the genre. I read some of her books at the time, and certainly enjoyed them.
My choice for today's Forgotten Book is Let's Pretend, first published in 1976, At the time the book came out, she was only 31, but already an accomplished writer of straightforward and highly readable prose, telling stories about extraordinary things happening to ordinary people - an approach which she maintained when turning to her first love, writing for children.
This book shows very clearly that interest in children and their perspective on the world. The events of the story are seen through the eyes of 13 year old Emily Barrett, whose mother has recently remarried. When her mother goes missing, Emily, who lives very much in her imagination, immediately suspects her seemingly amiable stepfather of having killed her. But nobody believes her.
I found this story gripping as well as attractively written. It has a modern feel, with only a few small things (like a reference to student grants!) dating it. Most of the action is concentrated in the last few scenes, and I felt that the key plot twist was not foreshadowed as much as I would have liked. But this didn't detract from my enjoyment of a very entertaining story. When Wilson abandoned crime fiction, the genre lost a potential superstar. Happily, children's fiction gained one.