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Tom Palmer is a football fan and a writer. He never did well at school. But once he got into reading about football – in newspapers, magazines and books – he decided he wanted to be a football writer more than anything. As well as the Football Detective series, he is the author of the Football Academy series, also for Puffin Books.

Tom lives in a Yorkshire town called Todmorden with his wife and daughter. The best stadium he’s visited is Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabéu.

Find out more about Tom on his website tompalmer.co.uk

Books by Tom Palmer


For younger readers







Published by the Penguin Group

Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA

Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4P 2Y3 (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)

Penguin Ireland, 25 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd)

Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd)

Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd, 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi – 110 017, India

Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, North Shore 0632, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd)

Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd, 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa

Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England


First published 2009

Text copyright © Tom Palmer, 2009

All rights reserved

The moral right of the author has been asserted

Except in the United States of America, this book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser

ISBN: 978-0-14-193113-5

For Rebecca and Iris

Reviews from some of Tom’s fans for

Football Detective: Foul Play

‘It was a truly brilliant book. When I grow

up I want to be a football author’ –


‘I am an eleven year old and I have read

your book. I love it and hope

Dead Ball

will be released soon’ –


‘I have read

Foul Play

. I think it is really good.

It has a lot of adventure in it’ –


‘Really, really, really good. Clever,

well written. Very good for people

like me who like football’ –


‘I like it – it’s my best book’ –


‘I think this book is so good I read it three times’ –


‘Perfect. Best story I have ever read’ –


‘I like the way the story is full, instead

of stopping to put in boring effects’ –




World Cup Qualifier

Match Fixers


Work Experience

Lunch Break

Appointment with Alex Finn

The Crash


Chance of a Lifetime

The Gamble

Spies Everywhere


House Party


Fear of Flying

Double Agent

Weird City


Secret Agents



The Invitation

A Different Kind of Party

Going Solo

The Chase

Good Friend


Following McGee

The Attack

Nowhere to Run

Journey to the Centre of the Earth

The Kremlin


The Longest Night

To the Luzhniki

The Stadium

Pre-Match Tension

First Half

Second Half

The Abduction

We Meet Again







‘Come on, England!’ Danny shouted at the television.

On the screen England’s star striker, Sam Roberts, collected the ball up in the centre circle. He played it wide to the national team’s short but speedy winger. The winger moved slowly at first, then accelerated past two Russian defenders and played an early ball into the box. Roberts was already bearing down on the penalty area, having run half the length of the pitch in seconds.

He leapt for the ball.

‘Go on!’ Danny was on the edge of his seat now. Literally. Ready to leap in the air if Roberts scored.

Roberts met the ball with his head. Full on.

But Danny’s sister, Emily, was on her feet now. ‘Ha ha,’ she shouted. ‘What a donkey.’

Roberts’ header had gone wide. Well wide.

Emily turned to face the rest of the room: her brother, his friend Paul, her mum and dad.

‘Come on, Russia!’ she shouted.

‘He missed,’ Danny said, turning to his dad. Danny did this automatically whenever they were at the football or just watching it on TV. His dad was blind. And Danny was his commentator.

‘I gathered,’ Dad said. Then in a very different voice: ‘Sit down, Emily.’

Dad knew that Emily was really getting to Danny now. Throughout the game she’d been trying to wind her brother up, saying she wanted Russia to win, not England. Cheering when Russia did well; mocking Danny when England messed up.

‘Yes, Emily,’ Mum said. ‘Either sit down or go and do something else. You hate football. You’re only doing this to annoy your brother.’

Danny said nothing. He couldn’t even look at his sister. He was absolutely furious. It was worse than sitting with a real fan of another team. At least then you knew they felt as much about their team as you did about yours.

‘Why should I?’ Emily said. ‘I support Russia.’

Danny knew it was best to leave his sister to it. If he reacted angrily to her she’d have won. And today she was being particularly unpleasant. Having been dumped by her boyfriend. Two hours ago. By text.

Danny smiled.

But not for long.

Because Russia were attacking now. Their keeper had flung the ball half the length of the pitch and suddenly their giant blond forward was bearing down on goal. The England defenders couldn’t get near him. The forward went past a first and a second, then played a one-two with his striking partner. And bang: a shot on goal from fifteen yards. Only Alex Finn, the England keeper, to beat. The ball flew straight and hard. Impossible to reach.

Emily was on her

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