Puffin swoops for Lincoln's madcap middle grade mystery

Puffin swoops for Lincoln's madcap middle grade mystery

Puffin has swooped for The Swifts, a “madcap” middle-grade mystery debut by PRH WriteNow graduate Beth Lincoln.

Ben Horslen, fiction publisher, acquired world rights in a two-book deal with Zoë Plant at The Bent Agency. Puffin will publish as a lead title in early 2023 and simultaneously in the US where four PRH imprints bid for the US rights. They eventually went to Julie Strauss-Gabel, president and publisher of Dutton Children's Books.

A sequel will follow in 2024.

Puffin said: “Bursting with mystery, comedy and high jinks from strong-willed protagonist Shenanigan Swift, Beth Lincoln’s powerhouse debut marks the arrival of an incredibly exciting new talent.”

Lincoln is a graduate of WriteNow, a nationwide campaign launched by PRH UK to ensure the books and authors wit publishes better reflect the society we live in. She attended an insight day in 2017 and was invited to take part in the initiative’s second year-long mentoring programme on the basis of a handful of early chapters. This led her to working on The Swifts with Horslen, who later became her editor. “The Swifts is set to be one of the most ambitious WriteNow acquisitions to date, and Puffin’s biggest debut fiction launch of 2023,” the publisher said.

The synopsis explains: “On the day they are born, each Swift is brought before the sacred Family Dictionary. They are given a name and a definition, and it is assumed they will grow up to match. Unfortunately, Shenanigan Swift doesn’t much like being told what to do. Troublemaker, prank-smith and mischief enthusiast, Shenanigan rattles around the grand old Swift House with her sisters and guardians, rehearsing her Arch-Aunt Schadenfreude’s funeral, plotting future crimes, and wondering whether she is herself through choice or design. When the Family Reunion floods the House with people, Shenanigan is excited to meet her rogue’s gallery of relatives—until one of them shoves Schadenfreude down the stairs.

"Shenanigan grudgingly takes on the role of detective, but more murders, a hidden treasure and an awful lot of suspects complicate things further. Can Shenanigan catch the killer before the whole Family is picked off? And in a world where definitions are so important, can she learn to define herself?”

Horslen said: “From the moment I read Beth's early first chapters, I knew she was a writer of exceptional talent. Her hilariously playful use of language is matched by a superb gift for characterisation, and I was instantly enchanted by Shenanigan, whose blend of bravery, chutzpah and sheer stubbornness reminded me of such brilliant child heroines as Lyra and Matilda. I couldn't be more excited to introduce readers everywhere to Shenanigan and her extraordinary family.”

Lincoln added: “I LOVED writing this book, even when I told everyone I didn’t, and that I would be giving it all up to start a new life in the Arctic tundra. WriteNow gave me the time and support to do something I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to do, and I’m incredibly lucky to be in such amazing company; not just the team at PRH, but my fellow mentees, who are all wildly talented. I’ve been wrangling these characters for several years now, and it feels strangely liberating to open the doors of Swift House and let them wander about unaccompanied. They’re your problem now.”

Alice Grigg, head of rights sales, commented: “The moment we met Shenanigan Swift, we knew we had a heroine whose story deserved to be told in EVERY corner of the world. Throw in a Robin Stevens-esque murder mystery, in a setting worthy of a Wes Anderson film, and The Swifts launches Beth Lincoln with a huge bang. Watch this space!’