Ten-year-old Wilma Tenderfoot, whose life's ambition is to be a great detective, finds an opportunity when the Katzin Stone is stolen and several people are murdered on tiny Cooper Island.
Sold from the Institute for Woeful Children to cantankerous Mrs. Waldock, foundling Wilma gets her chance when she discovers that Theodore P. Goodman, the island’s greatest detective, lives next door. Ignoring her assigned tasks—muddying windows and scraping scabs—the determined child-investigator introduces herself, makes deductions, creeps after suspects, escapes circuitously and takes careful notes. She’s joined in these activities by her new best friend, Pickle, a remarkably talented beagle who can fetch and carry messages and even make good detecting suggestions. This British import, the first of four already published in the UK, is full of hints about dire occurrences to come. At one point the author directly suggests that readers might want a hanky. The melodrama, outlandish invention and exaggerated humor will appeal to fans of Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events. Wilma is an appealing character, ever-hopeful that Goodman will take her on as an apprentice and help her find out more about her origins. The fast-paced plot twists and turns, but the conflict between good and evil is clear.With plenty of loose ends for further installments, this is a promising beginning for a mystery series. (Mystery. 8-12)