Mabel tries to “be in control,” “trust her instincts,” and “anticipate surprises” after her secret-agent parents disappear.
A “curious, brave, and clever” (almost) 11-year-old white girl, Mabel lives near Mount Rainier in Washington, where her mother operates an antique-spoon museum. When her parents are away on secret missions for the Agency, Mabel’s aunt Gertie acts as her guardian. As soon as Mabel’s parents leave on another mission, her long-lost greedy uncle, his obnoxious wife, and their meddling daughter unexpectedly descend under the auspices of watching over Mabel because Aunt Gertie’s been falsely arrested. Taking control of Mabel’s house and life, they clearly want the museum as well. Meanwhile, duplicitous Inspector Montgomery accuses Mabel’s parents of international smuggling and interrogates her about a mysterious red suitcase. Learning from the Agency her parents are indeed missing and uncertain whom she can trust, Mabel follows her Rules for a Successful Life as an Undercover Secret Agent (reproduced in full in the backmatter) as she tackles each surprising element of the case. Mabel’s first-person narration reveals a clearheaded and resourceful but lonely and somewhat resentful girl whose efforts to protect her parents’ secrets deny her the normal social life she deserves.
A suspenseful, multifaceted puzzler with a savvy girl sleuth. (author’s note) (Mystery. 9-12)