Stella and her Australian half sister, Josie, have always happily spent their summers together on the Jersey shore with their twice-divorced, shared dad.
This year things threaten to be different since Stella is fully embracing her almost–high school status but Josie lags behind, not quite so interested in boys, bonfires, and the hope for a kiss or two. Stella would willingly give up some of their childish rituals, but they still hold a strong attraction for Josie. Although this familiar dichotomy could have been the sole focus of the tale, Callaghan adds spice. Both girls are surprised to discover that their favorite water-ice shop has been replaced by a trendy new smoothie place that seems to be concealing a dark secret. After some determined sleuthing they discover an evolving environmental disaster that endangers the sea but also (a trifle implausibly) their beloved boardwalk. The tale is related in the girls’ fairly similar alternating voices that recollect a busy week, interspersed with their lengthy interviews at the police station a few days later. These gradually reveal the excitement the two stir up. The bemused, deadpan response of the police detective adds a touch of slightly ironic humor. The bad guys are mildly nasty, and the hint of innocent romance experienced by the characters (all seemingly white) is sure to please preteen readers.
Altogether, a fine choice to bring to the beach. (Mystery. 9-12)