The intrigue swirls thick ’round Pancake Court.
Inspired by a black-and-white movie her mother watches with her even though it’s not on the list of 10 movies without mean people, smoking, bad words and tiny clothes, Bean goes into the PI business. Donning an old fedora, in no time she attracts the attention of the other neighborhood children, including best friend Ivy. Bean solves a couple of mysteries—what’s under the cement lids in all the lawns, why the letter carrier takes a two-hour nap every day—but the kids are not particularly impressed. Then a real mystery arises: A bright yellow rope appears, tied around Dino’s chimney and trailing onto his lawn. Incredibly, each day it lengthens, sprawling around the cul-de-sac and evidently evading the notice of every adult there. Bean’s reputation is at stake. Her efforts to nab Mr. Whoever-ties-the-rope involve lots of shared speculation and a midnight stakeout with loyal Ivy…but no perp. As always, Barrows’ keen understanding of children yields scenarios that are right on the money: Bean cheerfully watches her mother’s favorite noir classic and gleans only the details her mother would rather she not have noticed; she sets and resets a kitchen timer four times in order to wake up at midnight. And her nonsolution results in a conclusion that will madden adults but that is wisely, perfectly childlike.
Only a stooge couldn’t love Ivy and Bean. (Fiction. 6-9)