That precocious sleuth on roller skates, Sophie “Sesame” Seade, attempts to track down the source of the bug that is making the Cambridge rowing team sick on the eve of its race with Oxford.
Sesame “works” as her undergraduate friend Jeremy’s investigative reporter for his UniGossip newspaper. Her native intelligence and determination are nicely combined with her penchant for hyperbole, exaggeration, and exasperation with the slow pace of those around her. The result is a wonderfully impertinent first-person voice traveling at speed and pitched directly to the intended audience of bright preteens. The young heroine’s middle school–style wisecracking is relentless and very often hilarious as she and best friends Troy and Gemma search for possible villains. Their discovery of a pirate chest hidden in the reeds along the riverbank, an encounter with a family of merchants who’ve noticed jewelry going missing from their barge, and a Nancy Drew–like kidnapping of the heroine offer plenty of misdirection and opportunities for speculation. Horne’s cartoon illustrations throughout emphasize the slightly looney charm of the young detective and her exploits, depicting Sesame and Troy as white and Gemma with East Asian features. The singular landmarks of the university, its town, and its traditions are scattered through the narrative—obstacles as often as not to Sesame’s successful detective work.
Readers who have come this far with the series will find themselves giggling over Sesame’s good-natured bossiness and her impressive snooping skills. (Fiction. 7-11)