There are those who argue that realistic adventure fiction with children as the main characters can't be written any more (because contemporary children lead overly cloistered lives), hence the current vogue for high fantasy.
Richard Kidd proves them wrong, with another wonderfully paced tale of intrigue and skulduggery. He stretches credulity in one or two tiny regards, and then relies on readers' suspension of disbelief and narrative momentum. It may be unlikely that two primary schoolboys would be employed at the local zoo, albeit on a semi-unofficial basis, but it is far from impossible.
The adventure begins when Jimmy picks up a piece from a jigsaw puzzle in the street. It turns out to be the eye from Rousseau's painting "Tiger in a Tropical Storm". Then Jimmy and his friend uncover shady goings-on when they get involved in some black-market trading in tiger dung.
A colourful cast of adult characters, both heroes and villains, includes Albert, a recluse who lives in a train carriage; Mr Wiggins, a dodgy zoo-keeper; Kit, a taxidermist; the general who featured in The Giant Goldfish Robbery; and two Chinese sisters, who provide Jimmy with several opportunities to challenge racist jibes.
Books such as this are easily overlooked when award panels draw up their shortlists. The Tiger Bone Thief may not be high art, but it is certainly high entertainment.