200 Minutes of Mystery

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10 stories. 10 mysterious situations. 10 brave kids. 20 minutes of clues.

  • Omar is buried alive in a coffin. Who put him there?
  • Kane’s parachute fails during a skydive. Is someone trying to kill him?
  • Fang is investigated by secret police. Can she prove she isn’t a traitor?

The eighth book in the bestselling and award-winning middle grade action series.

Q&A

Q: Is this a Danger book?

A: Yes! Sort of. Just like in 200, 300, 400 and 500 Minutes of Danger, this is a book of interlinked short stories, all designed to be read in real time. Ten dangerous situations, ten brave kids, twenty minutes per story. But this time there’s an extra twist: in addition to escaping from the threat, each hero also has to work out who’s behind it. If that sounds like a lot to pack into twenty minutes, well, buckle up.

Q: Where is the book set?

A: India, Mexico, China, Pakistan… all over the place, really. There’s a pirate story set in the 18th Century, which was lots of fun to write. There’s a story set almost entirely in mid-air, where a kid is falling with a sabotaged parachute. The global scale of the book meant that I could include real historical details, everything from the lost gold of Atahualpa to the Bhopal gas disaster.

Q: What made you want to try something different?

A: The Danger series has been fun because there’s so much freedom. Every story is an opportunity for a new character, a new setting, a new plot. But the endings of the stories eventually started wearing on me. There’s only so many times you can write, “Finally she was safe. The end.” This new book has opportunities for more variety. (I got to type, “It was you!“)

Q: Do I have to read the other Danger books first?

A: Nope! Each book in this series stands alone. You don’t even have to read the stories in order, if you don’t want to. They are linked to each other, but only if you’re paying attention. Similarly, there are links to the other books, too, but they’re mostly pretty well hidden.

Q: Do you have a favourite Danger book?

A: It’s funny – typically, as you write a series, you get more and more comfortable with it. You slowly work out what you’re doing, and how to do it the most efficiently. But the first book always sells better than any of the others, because most readers like to start from the beginning, and not all of them continue. This means that the books get better and better, but they have fewer and fewer readers. Anyway, 200 Minutes of Mystery is by far my favourite, and the one I’m proudest of… but it’s 300 Minutes of Danger that has made me the most money, so let’s just say I have a soft spot for that one, too.

Q: The story “Coffin” sounds a lot like the story “Buried Alive”, from 500 Minutes of Danger.

A: Was that a question?

Q: The question is implied.

A. Was that a question?

Q: Quit stalling.

A: OK, OK. Both stories start out basically the same way – a kid wakes up somewhere dark, cold and very enclosed. But the stories develop differently: Bobby, the kid in “Buried Alive” turned out to be stuck in an MRI machine in a collapsing hospital. While Omar, the kid in “Coffin”, really is in a coffin, underground. He’s in much more trouble.

Q: Will there be any more Danger books?

A: I’m writing one right now – or rather, I’m writing this Q&A while I stall for time, trying to figure out how one of the stories will end. I have a girl stuck in a maze of air vents, with fire getting closer and closer, and I’m not quite sure how to get her out of it. The book is called 10 Minutes of Danger.

Q: Isn’t that significantly less danger?

A: Not at all! There are twenty stories in this one, rather than ten. But it’s too soon to say any more than that.

Q: Do you often write that way, making the story up as you go along?

A: For most of my novels, I have a plan, but I don’t always follow it. For the Danger stories, I don’t usually have a plan – just a premise. (Something like, “parachute won’t open” or “buried treasure is missing”.) Then I work my way towards the ending, and as soon as I know what it’s going to be, I quickly duck back to the beginning and plant all the clues. Then I submit it to the publisher, who gently points out all the bits that don’t make sense, or bits that are too much for the age group.

Q: Like what?

A: I wrote a story in 200 Minutes of Danger where the hero didn’t actually escape – he drowned at the end. The publisher thought that was probably a bit gloomy for the fun escapist fiction that my readers have come to expect, and they were right.

Q: So none of the characters die in 200 Minutes of Mystery?

A: I didn’t say that! You’ll just have to read it and find out.

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