Tag: mysteries

Friday Barnes, Girl Detective by R. A. Spratt

Friday Barnes Girl Detective by RA Spratt

Friday Barnes, Girl Detective by R.A. Spratt, illustrated by Phil Gosier (InfoSoup)

Friday has long known the power of being invisible to everyone else. Her parents rarely pay any attention to her and she got herself moved from kindergarten to first grade without anyone noticing. When she solves a bank robbery, the award money lets her pay tuition to Highcrest Academy, a very exclusive private school. Friday hopes to continue to be invisible, but her brown sweaters and jeans don’t serve as camouflage among the trendy and expensive clothes. Anyway, Friday soon discovers that what Highcrest Academy needs is a detective since there is crime everywhere! As Friday steps into that role, she tries to solve a series of cases from missing homework to who exactly is the yeti in the swamp. This funny and clever book is the first in a new series that is sure to delight.

Friday is a great female protagonist. She is highly intelligent and never apologizes for it. She is also socially awkward but manages to find a great friend at school, another girl who is her perfect foil, a daydreamer who can read emotions well. Friday has no interest in being popular, another breath of fresh air. The unlikely pair make a great team in solving mysteries and are joined by others including a doltish brother who does what he is told very well and a principal who also needs Friday’s help.

The entire book is smart and humorous. Friday solves crimes in ways that make sense and the crimes themselves are small enough to fit into a middle school campus but large enough to be fascinating. While there is some bullying, many of the boarding school tropes of mean girls are minimized in favor of the mysteries themselves. The closed-in setting of the boarding school is used to great effect as the suspects must often be right in the vicinity.

A dazzling new series, this book has tons of appeal for mystery fans and features a unique new protagonist to love. Appropriate for ages 8-11.

Reviewed from e-galley received from Roaring Brook Press and Edelweiss.

2016 Edgar Award Nominations

The Mystery Writers of American have chosen the nominees for the 2016 Edgar Awards. Winners will be announced on April 28. Below are the nominees in the youth categories:

BEST JUVENILE

Catch You Later, Traitor If You Find This

Catch You Later, Traitor by Avi
If You Find This by Matthew Baker

The Shrunken Head (The Curiosity House, #1) The Blackthorn Key
Curiosity House: The Shrunken Head by Lauren Oliver & H.C.Chester
Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands

Footer Davis Probably Is Crazy
Footer Davis Probably is Crazy by Susan Vaught

 

BEST YOUNG ADULT

Endangered A Madness So Discreet

Endangered by Lamar Giles
A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis

The Sin Eater’s Daughter (The Sin Eater’s Daughter, #1) The Walls Around Us
The Sin Eater’s Daughter by Melinda Salisbury
The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma

Ask the Dark
Ask the Dark by Henry Turner

Review: Delicate Monsters by Stephanie Kuehn

Delicate Monsters by Stephanie Kuehn

Delicate Monsters by Stephanie Kuehn (InfoSoup)

Sadie has to return to her family home and public high school after being kicked out of her third boarding school in four years. Sadie can’t seem to keep out of trouble. It could be that she doesn’t care about anything much at all, and definitely not how other people feel. Though she is intrigued to see a boy she knew in her childhood again. Emerson has a deep crush on May, a girl that he lusts after longingly. When Sadie arrives back though, trouble follows and she witnesses Emerson do something that could ruin him entirely. Meanwhile Emerson’s younger brother Miles is struggling too. He has seizures and when he has one, he can see the future. He’s just had a vision of a dark future for himself and he shares that with Sadie. Now the three of them are entwined in a brutal future of their own making and possibly one they can’t escape, because Miles’ visions always come true.

Kuehn has written a very unique book here. First, she does not try to make any of these characters ones that you relate to easily or particularly like. In fact, they are all rather detestable. From the rich girl who doesn’t feel emotions about others to the two brothers who are filled with a powerful mix of self hatred and violence. The themes here are quite mature with sex scenes as well as violence. It is a book that is haunting and frightening and compulsively readable.

Kuehn has carefully set the scene for trouble with a mix of wealth and poverty that makes for sparks between characters but also destructive flames that will harm and hurt. She adds to that a vineyard where the three main characters spent a critical summer together and a series of reveals about the characters that are very disturbing. That slow peeling of the characters in front of the reader creates a blazing book that is a great read. The ending (which I will not spoil) will frustrate some readers and leave others very satisfied. For me, it was the perfect ending for a book like this.

A genre-bending read, this teen novel is part thriller, part mystery and entirely gripping. Appropriate for ages 16-18.

Reviewed from digital galley received from St. Martin’s Griffin and Edelweiss.

Review: Nooks & Crannies by Jessica Lawson

Nooks and Crannies by Jessica Lawson

Nooks & Crannies by Jessica Lawson (InfoSoup)

Tabitha has been given an envelope and sternly told that her parents have to be the ones to open it. But when she gets home, she finds her parents packing up and getting ready to leave on a lengthy vacation. They are also planning to leave Tabitha in the local orphanage. Once the envelope is open though, their plans change since Tabitha and her parents have been invited to the home of a wealthy countess for the weekend. Once there, Tabitha discovers that she is one of six children who have been invited to the estate and that the countess is searching for the child who is her grandchild. But all is not what it seems and Tabitha also finds out that she is in the middle of a great mystery. With the help of her pet mouse, it is up to Tabitha to solve the mystery and stay alive while doing it!

Lawson offers up a gorgeous mystery here with all sorts of treats along the way. Readers who enjoy a good British whodunit will find so much to love here. There is a great mansion to explore, complete with hidden passages. There are ghosts all around, haunting everyone in the house. There are odd servants, a prickly butler, and a mad countess. Throughout the mystery makes sense and the pleasure of figuring out the mystery is heightened thanks to the twists and turns along the way.

Tabitha is a great protagonist. She is a true friend, one who stands by her mouse. As she gets to know the other children, the sorrow of her own upbringing is heightened and her loneliness which could have been used as a shield is beautifully displayed and then slowly cracked until she is fully engaged with the others. The mystery is the heart of the book but so is the growth of the confidence of Tabitha as she works to solve the mystery and grows a lot in the process.

A strong British mystery, this book is dark and lovely. A great way to spend some summer afternoons. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from copy received from Simon & Schuster.

Review: Detective Gordon: The First Case by Ulf Nilsson

Detective Gordon the First Case by Ulf Nilsson

Detective Gordon: The First Case by Ulf Nilsson, illustrated by Gitte Spee (InfoSoup)

When a squirrel discovers that some of his nuts are missing one winter night, he heads straight to the police station where Detective Gordon, Chief of Police, can help him. But when he gets there, no one seems to be around until he finds the great detective fast asleep on his paperwork with cake crumbs all around. Once awoken though, Detective Gordon heads out to help solve the crime. But it’s a very cold night and Detective Gordon can’t climb to the hole in the tree to see the crime scene. When he stands watch, he manages to freeze solid. That’s when a little mouse steals one nut from the tree and ends up helping Gordon back to his warm police station. The little mouse is soon named Buffy and settles into the police station as an assistant to Gordon. She can scramble up trees and seems to have a knack for crime solving too. It doesn’t hurt that it’s all accompanied with lots of warmth, tea and cakes. But who is stealing the nuts? Will they strike again? And how can one very young mouse and one old toad figure it all out?

Translated from the original Swedish, this book is a toasty little joy. It has gorgeous elements to it, filled with small touches that bring it entirely to life. From the various cakes for each time of day and the delight at discovering each new flavor to the pleasure both Buffy and Gordon get from stamping each document when its completed, this book is perfect for quiet and cozy crime fighters and detectives. The mystery is just right for small children and the cozy nature of the story makes this an idea bedtime read. The descriptions are vivid, enhancing the strong feeling of a woodsy community as a whole.

Spee’s illustrations add to the snug feeling of the story. She creates fires that glow with a halo of warmth, cakes that line up with plenty for everyone, and beds that are stacked with eiderdown. It is all very domestic and wonderful and also has a little humor mixed in, just like the story itself. The full-color illustrations make this a perfect book to move young readers and listeners to longer books.

A pleasure of a book, this cozy mystery for children is clearly European in origin which adds to the fun. Appropriate for ages 7-9.

Reviewed from copy received from Gecko Press.

Review: The Truth Commission by Susan Juby

truth commission

The Truth Commission by Susan Juby (InfoSoup)

There are books you never want to end, and this is one of those. These characters are so fresh and new and real that I wanted to spend even more time with them. This novel is about three teenage friends who attend a private art high school together. There is Dusk, the stunningly beautiful girl who creates tiny tableaus for stuffed shrews. There is Neil, a boy stuck in the 1970s and who paints portraits of beautiful women like Dusk. And then there is the protagonist, Normandy, who does tiny needlepoint work and is best known for being the younger sister of the famous graphic novelist. The three start The Truth Commission, where they decide to start asking everyone the truth about things they may be keeping secret. Nothing is off limits from sexuality to love to angry ostrich-raising school secretaries. But Normandy’s family survives on secrets and the question becomes whether she can face the truth about herself and those she loves.

Juby has created a witty and dazzling read for teens. Done entirely in Normandy’s voice and writing as “narrative nonfiction” the book offers footnotes that are often asides between Normandy and her English teacher. This framework creates a real strength of the story, allowing for not only the story to be told but for Normandy to be writing about the past and offer some perspective on what happened. Filled with plenty of clever humor, this book is an impressive mix of tense mystery and gentle romance.

The characters are the heart of the book. Normandy reveals herself on the page and hides nothing. She shows through her own reactions to her sister’s graphic novels, which depict Normandy as entirely useless and ugly, as the only one who is thoughtful and credible in her family. As she hides from the wrath of her sister, making herself small and quiet, she also becomes her sister’s confidante. Her best friends too are intriguing mixes of truth and denial. Dusk is the artistic daughter in a family of doctors, and yet one can see her own ties to medicine through her art. Neil seems to be the son of a stereotypical middle-aged man who hits on teen girls, but both he and his father are far more lovely than that.

Strongly written with great characters and a dynamic mix of humor, romance and mystery, this teen novel is one of the best of the year so far. Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from ARC received from Viking Books for Young Readers.