Fans of David Walliams will enjoy the formulaic nonsense, but there’s no shortage of higher-quality slapstick mysteries for...

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THE BOOK CASE

At her new school full of horsenappers, bootleggers, and jam thieves, Daphne becomes a detective.

When English schoolgirl Daphne arrives at the imposing gates bearing the legend “St. Rita’s School for Spirited Girls, est. 1873,” all she knows is that she’s been offered a scholarship and a job as an assistant librarian. There’s a crater in the driveway from an accident with stolen chemistry supplies and a massive hole in the dormitory floor made by a falling cannonball. The students (all apparently white) pick locks and forge Monets. As the deputy head explains, “you’d need to be bonkers in the noodle to want to be here. It’s a dreadful place!” Even Daphne’s job as assistant librarian is a mess: The gorgeous library is nearly empty after a fire that destroyed the old library, the head librarian who hired Daphne is on indefinite sick leave, and her replacement is a small girl who doesn’t seem inclined to trust Daphne. But somebody needs to solve all the skulduggery and shenanigans: break-ins, thefts, and even a missing student. The school is so odd that the mid-20th-century time period is easy to miss, and both the third-person narration that shifts between limited and omniscient and the narrative voice’s adult tone are similarly unmooring. Cartoonish illustrations by the author are comical but as slightly off as St. Rita’s itself.

Fans of David Walliams will enjoy the formulaic nonsense, but there’s no shortage of higher-quality slapstick mysteries for eager readers . (Mystery. 8-11)

Pub Date: May 28, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-32379-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: David Fickling/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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A smart, fresh take on an old favorite makes for a terrific series kickoff

THE GREAT SHELBY HOLMES

From the Shelby Holmes series , Vol. 1

A modern Sherlock Holmes retelling brings an 11-year-old black John Watson into the sphere of know-it-all 9-year-old white detective Shelby Holmes.

John's an Army brat who's lived in four states already. Now, with his parents' divorce still fresh, the boy who's lived only on military bases must explore the wilds of Harlem. His new life in 221A Baker St. begins inauspiciously, as before he's even finished moving in, his frizzy-haired neighbor blows something up: "BOOM!" But John's great at making friends, and Shelby certainly seems like an interesting kid to know. Oddly loquacious, brusque, and extremely observant, Shelby's locally famous for solving mysteries. John’s swept up in her detecting when a wealthy, brown-skinned classmate enlists their help in the mysterious disappearance of her beloved show dog, Daisy. Whatever could have happened to the prizewinning Cavalier King Charles spaniel? Has she been swiped by a jealous competitor? Has Daisy’s trainer—mysteriously come into enough money to take a secret weekend in Cozumel—been placing bets against his own dog? Brisk pacing, likable characters, a few silly Holmes jokes ("I'm Petunia Cumberbatch," says Shelby while undercover), and a diverse neighborhood, carefully and realistically described by John, are ingredients for success.

A smart, fresh take on an old favorite makes for a terrific series kickoff . (Mystery. 9-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-68119-051-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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Flimsily entertaining

THE SECRET OF WHITE STONE GATE

From the Black Hollow Lane series , Vol. 2

An American schoolgirl in a British boarding school battles a secret society in this adventure.

In this trope-y sequel to The Mystery of Black Hollow Lane (2019), the students at Wellsworth must stay safe from the evil order that’s been there for generations and still entangles their parents. Emmy, a white, well-to-do Connecticut 12-year-old, is determined to return to Wellsworth even though last year she was nearly killed. The Order of Black Hollow Lane, the mysterious bad guys who are disguised as the school’s Latin Society, want something from Emmy. Her long-lost father, for one, and Emmy’s box of medallions, for another. Why? Do they really need a reason aside from being an evil club full of wickedness determined to find a whole box of MacGuffins that will somehow make them even richer and more powerful or at least propel the plot? In any case the dastardly fiends plague Emmy, framing one of her best friends for theft and leaving cryptic notes and computer files to threaten the lives of Emmy’s loved ones. Though the Order has infiltrated this (nearly all-white, wealthy) school for generations, Emmy must somehow defeat them and save her dad. The quest is peppered with spy-thriller moments that are mostly only thinly sketched and go nowhere, though some (such as a disguise right out of Scooby Doo cartoons) are funny enough to keep the action moving.

Flimsily entertaining . (Adventure. 9-11)

Pub Date: March 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4926-6467-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Sourcebooks Young Readers

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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