This fun, if slightly incoherent, British girl-detective escapade offers eccentric characters, snooping, danger and cookery for the middle-school crowd.
Young Beatrice lives for cooking, holding imaginary conversations with her favorite famous chef when she’s trying to solve a problem. Uprooted to a tiny seaside village when her father loses his job, her family moves in with her colorful, elderly â€œAunt” Maud, a nicely drawn character who adds some zip to the narrative–as does a quirky librarian. When Beatrice drops a centuries-old cookbook given to her by Maud, she discovers within it obscure poems that she thinks are clues to an old mystery. Teaming up with three local kids, Beatrice sets off to hunt for evidence. Clues lead them to the powerful family that owns the town, and into contention with some standard-issue bullies. Beatrice then enters the â€œFearsome Feast,” a contest to produce a truly inedible dish, and she gains access to the manor house with a hilarious, gag-inducing creation. Maud joins her, and the two end up in a cliffhanger battle against conventional baddies. Alas, frequent typos and grammatical errors clutter the otherwise nice narrative flow.
Entertaining–but unnecessarily puzzling–this may appeal to fans who like their mysteries unsullied by elements of fantasy. (Fiction. 10-12)