In this fast-paced mystery novel, sixth-grader Leira and her friends meet fun and danger on their winter break.
Leira and her new best friends, Addy and Skye, are in the middle of surviving bitter cold, ice and downright dreariness—just another New England winter. Their school’s winter break is approaching, and it’s the light at the end of the tunnel, especially when Leira’s mother, Mrs. MacGregor, invites Addy and Skye to come along on the MacGregor family trip to Arizona. The girls are beyond thrilled—Addy has never stayed at a nice hotel, and Skye has never been on an airplane—and the group sets out to visit Leira’s relatives: Aunt Debbie, Uncle Ray, and cousins Brianna and Luke. Luke, an Eagle Scout, has invited the girls to camp with him in the nearby canyons and mountains. They oblige, and Luke teaches them about the desert, the culture of the area and how to camp. One morning, they find mysterious markings surrounding their camp—has someone been watching them, all alone, in the middle of the desert? Can the girls and Luke find out what’s happening before someone gets hurt? A fast-paced, quick read, Carson’s (The Mystery of Grimly Manor, 2012) novel offers both entertainment and a bit of education. Particularly impressive is the level of research, including many informational bits about the desert’s flora, fauna and climate and Native American culture, which enriches the story’s central plotline. When danger does strike, those lessons are used, making readers likely to remember them for later. This subtle learning makes this a work that kids and parents can feel good about picking up. There are some small gripes, though: Dialogue can feel a bit hackneyed and earnest, and few children talk the way these characters do—“I responded cautiously, ‘Well, all I can say is that it has to do with our winter vacation. If I say anything else, then neither of you will have a chance to do something extremely exciting.’ ” But the prose is descriptive and assertive, and the pacing is perfect for a children’s mystery. Hopefully, Carson keeps at it.
An educational, entertaining mystery for kids.