As a child, I was addicted to secrets, both keeping my own and working out what was going on around me.
I had one of these little Filofax things, which came with a cassette (that’s right, I’m old) that talked you through made-up mystery scenarios and tasked you with solving them.
I loved that kit.
I loved anything to do with mysteries, secrets and my dream of being a spy.
As I grew older, my dreams became more realistic. When I was a teenager, my dream was to be a high school teacher. In my early twenties, working for an advertising technology company, I dreamed of breaking free and running my own business.
But the obsession with crime solving never quite went away.
I read mystery novels more than anything else. Mary Higgins Clark, Tess Gerritsen, Ian Rankin, Karin Fossum, Karen Rose, Ruth Rendell, James Patterson… to name just a few. A particular favourite heroine of mine was Kinsey Millhone from Sue Grafton’s Alphabet series. She’s a kick-ass investigator who doesn’t care what people think of her, is a little prickly, finds it difficult to maintain relationships because she finds humans confusing, and lives a simple life in which she spends most of her time working.
I guess you could say I related to her a little bit 😉
One day, when I was about 23, something happened at the advertising agency where I worked. Someone broke into our system and started scamming us. We knew it was happening, but no one could work out how.
I spent days (and several nights) sitting behind my desk, scribbling out notes on reams of paper, wading through huge datasets to find correlations, learning what ‘hashing a password’ meant. Finally, I found it. The man who’d been behind the crime.
He’s currently in prison in Vietnam.
I was hooked.
I did a little research, sent off for some long-distance training course materials, and got my qualification in private investigation. Then I decided to specialise in digital forensics, because most of my cases had an online element anyway, and I was particularly interested in child protection, which has a strong online component.
It’s now several years later and I’ve been working for myself as a digital forensic investigator since 2012.
I love my job. And throughout it all I’ve never quite let go of the feeling that somewhere deep down inside me, nine-year-old scar is squealing with excitement that the tapes I’m listening to and the mysteries I’m solving are part of REAL LIVE CRIMES.
Of course it’s not all fun and games when it’s real crimes you’re dealing with. But it’s incredible to be able to do the job you literally dreamed about – and pretended to be doing – as a child.
Which is why I was so interested when I heard about the Kids’ Mystery Monthly magazine.
I don’t normally write reviews on this blog, or at least not of leisure activities or things for children. But this brought up such a clear picture of me hunched over a battered filofax, cheap headphones plugged into the cassette walkman which boasted several Spice Girls stickers, desperate to one day fulfil my dream, that I just had to find out more about it.
So today I sat down and went through the latest issue of Kids’ Mystery Monthly to see what it’s like.
Short answer: I love it.
Here’s an intro from one of the detectives of Little Puzzling, the town where the mysteries are set:
It reminds me so much of the things I used to play with as a child, and I could never find enough of them. There were one or two spy-themed things that were both age suitable and within my mother’s very slim price range, but most of the time I had to make up my own mysteries instead.
I read Issue 2 – Mystery in the Maze. It’s a lot of fun. It’s more interactive than I expected, which is a very good thing, and it has a range of different activities for kids to get involved with.
There are videos throughout the magazine which allow a break from finding clues and let kids get an idea of what it’s like to work with an investigator who resents your presence in an investigation (a surprisingly accurate touch).
A lot of the activities are genuinely useful if you want to promote the kinds of skills you’ll use as an investigator, too. Whilst I’ve never been walked through two almost identical crime scenes and asked to spot the differences, I do find that a keen eye for detail and a large amount of patience are essential requirements to do the job well – and both of these were put to good use in the activities.
The tips for amateur fingerprinting on the last page were a nice touch, too – as a kid I always appreciated it when I actually learned something while I was playing, and the Kids’ Mystery Monthly magazine helps you to do just that.
The magazines are put together by Sara West, who first started running mystery-themed parties for her son eight years ago and then expanded her business to include events for other children too. Kids’ Mystery Monthly currently has two available issues and will be published once a month from now on.
Parents: This means it’s right in time for the school holidays! Something to keep them quiet for a few precious minutes!
The magazine is interactive and takes place online, so you’ll need an internet connection to access it. It works across several devices including smartphones, tablets and desktops. You can also print out the puzzles and quests (recommended particularly for the wordsearches and similar activities), or if you’re in the UK, you can request the Print & Post service which will have a hard copy of the magazine sent to your address.
The pricing is also good value: £4.50 for a single mystery, £3.50 per magazine for a series of mysteries, or £28 for a year’s worth – a small price to pay for a bit of peace and quiet!
Plus, if you order it using the discount code below, you can get 25% off your first mystery. Order your mysteries online via the Kids’ Mystery Monthly website.
Do you have a child who loves solving mysteries? What did you used to want to be when you grew up? I’d love to read your comments!