Bad Machinery tells the stories of three schoolgirl sleuths and three schoolboy investigators, attending Griswalds Grammar School in Keane End, Tackleford. While not exactly enemies, a mixture of pride, mistrust and pig-headedness keep them at cross purposes.
If you're going to start, you might as well start at the beginning. This is how things look at the start of the first case.
A medium-sized West Yorkshire city set among rolling hills, Tackleford has a long history of mystery. Since the industrial revolution it has been a hotbed of problems, issues, manifestations, bad deeds, schemes and trouble. Griswalds is in the leafy suburb of Keane End.
Raised poor but extremely bright, Shauna is the first of her family to go to a school where you have to wear a blazer. She is aspirational; one of her aspirations is currently to tease her hair out to its utmost extent. Her best friend since the age of 3 is Charlotte Grote. Shauna lives with her mother, her stepfather Dan and her little half-brother "Humphrey".
Charlotte is loud, silly and likeable. On occasion she can be annoying. She doesn't always know the difference between a good idea and a bad idea. Charlotte (or sometimes "Lottie") lives with her estate agent mother. Her elder sister has left home. She has a small dog. She has a big cartoon face.
The product of an extremely liberal upbring, Mildred feels compelled to push boundaries, and her luck. She is not necessarily bad, but she is not good at doing as she's told. Mildred is cleverer than Charlotte but shares with her a ferocious appetite for gossip.
Jack is a dreamer, he is tall for his age, quiet and shy. He likes football stickers, popular music, drawing, and staring into the middle distance. He doesn't understand black and white films. He lives with his parents and his sister.
Linton is an achiever. His mother is a primary school teacher, his father is a police superintendent. Linton will not rest until he has righted every wrong. He is a little too sharp for his age. Linton has just discovered sarcasm.
Perpetually bright eyed and optimistic, Sonny is a good fellow to have around. He may not be the brightest but he makes up for it in kindness and old-fashioned manners. It is impossible to get a comb through Sonny's hair. Sonny lives in wealth and splendour with his parents and his little sister Cecile. He speaks fluent French.
Jessica is Jack's sister. She has a coterie of high-spirited cronies. Jessica is very hard on Jack. She operates the older sibling's "whip hand".
Mr (Ryan) Beckwith
Mr Beckwith is Charlotte and Shauna's class teacher. He is the good kind of teacher. He wears fake glasses and thriftstore tweed to pretend to be an adult, otherwise he forgets that he is in charge of the class. Mr Beckwith loves Americana but cowboy boots are "too far". He is married to the bohemian and exotic antiques dealer Amy Beckwith-Chilton.
Mr (George) Bough (pronounced "boff")
Obsessed with squash (the game, not the vegetable) and brass instruments, Mr Bough is the bad kind of teacher. Every year he promises to retire, then doesn't. Mr Bough stopped paying attention about twenty years ago. He is Sonny, Jack and Linton's class teacher.
Amy is Ryan's wife. They were friends for a long time before they fell in love. Amy runs a successful antiques shop and has an uncanny eye for treasures. She has a lot of money.