Van Draanen (How I Survived Being a Girl, 1997) debuts a live-wire young sleuth in this nonstop whodunit. The day before starting seventh grade, Samantha peers through her grandmother's binoculars and spots the latest in a rash of burglaries. The burglar spots her right back, setting in motion a headlong chain of events that, over the next few days, takes Sammy and her rich but loyal friend Marissa from back alleys to the roof of the local mall in an effort to finger the crook while escaping his clutches. Meanwhile, Sammy also has to cope with a hostile police officer, a new school, malicious classmate Heather, and--in the seniors-only highrise where she lives with Grams while her own mother pursues a Hollywood career--a suspicious neighbor. Heather's villainy and subsequent public humiliation may be overdone, but Van Draanen expertly keeps all the subplots at a rolling boil while strewing the tale with red herrings, suspects, and clever clues. Children will admire Sammy's inadvertent genius for ruffling feathers as much as they'll like her sharp powers of observation and deduction; she is a tough new gumshoe with another caper scheduled for fall.