Thirteen-year-old Skylar Robbins is thrilled when she and her parents move into a decrepit, abandoned mansion overlooking a cliff in Santa Monica. She even turns the cool spiral turret room into the “Skylar Robbins Detective Agency” office. Inspired by her late, beloved detective grandfather, Skylar is intrigued to learn that prior to her mysterious disappearance three years earlier, the house's former owner, heiress Xandra Collins, left detailed clues leading to the location of her jewelry box on the property with the promise that whoever finds it can keep the $1million worth of jewels inside. With the help of her Porta-Detective kit, Skylar uses maps, dusts for fingerprints, deciphers codes, and reads messages in invisible ink to solve the mystery. But Skylar suspects that the construction workers her parents hired are also searching for the jewels; one man threatens Skylar and plants a dead rat in her bathroom (oddly, however, Skylar does not inform her parents of this). Skylar is undeterred and does unsafe things like riding (and getting stuck in) an old dumbwaiter to reach the mansion's hidden fourth floor. In addition to her detective work, subplots include Skylar attempting to ask her crush Dustin Coles to the school dance and helping her best friend, Alexa, who has dyslexia. Skylar faces a moral dilemma when she witnesses Emelyn Peters, a bully who also has a crush on Dustin, stealing items from classmates and vandalizing a vending machine. Clearly, Cross (Skylar Robbins: The Mystery Of Shadow Hills, 2013) aims to create a Nancy Drew for the digital age. When Alexa warns Skylar not to do anything dangerous, Skylar laments “This could be exactly what my detective agency needs. It doesn't even have 200 Likes on Facebook and I'm barely getting any shares.” Following Skylar's process is engaging but the plot is predictable which may be unsatisfying to readers. Although this can be read as a standalone title, some elements may confuse those who haven't read the first book. Skylar mentions her website and secret agents who help her solve mysteries but no further explanation is provided. The ending is abrupt; it is clearly meant to flow into the third book of the series.
A sometimes entertaining but predictable story.