A police detective’s daughter spends a summer solving a crime.
The moment Jex arrives at her estranged father’s house, the plot becomes far too convenient. Three teen girls, fascinated by rumors that Detective Malone has a daughter (the detective’s level of awe-inspiring celebrity never feels particularly believable), invite themselves into Jex’s father’s house. By the end of the afternoon, Jex and the others have declared themselves friends, formed a secret detective agency and reopened the high-profile unsolved case of local teen Patty Matthews’ disappearance 13 years earlier. Almost immediately, the girls discover Patty’s private journal, which, despite an extensive police investigation, had not previously been found. No element of the story works any better than its hard-to-swallow plot. Jex’s narrative wisecracking is occasionally clever (“The girl is a walking punctuation mark”) but just as often clunky and unfunny. The girls have little beyond one defining characteristic each; Jex’s relationship with her dad changes from hostile to heartfelt with very little impetus, and the mystery’s resolution is simplistic. The “famous girl detective quotes” that begin each chapter serve as an upbeat reminder of women sleuth role models, but their content is often quotidian and only tenuously related to the chapter that follows.
A dud. (Mystery. 12-18)