Fifth-grader Fairday Morrow's new home lives up to its spooky reputation, but she and her companions in the Detective Mystery Squad find out why.
At Begonia House, strains of bagpipe music issue from behind a padlocked door, grains of sand in an hourglass have stopped falling, and a malevolent weeping willow looms in the backyard. A magic mirror shows an invisible door; a wardrobe hides secrets and a portal. Ruby Begonia vanished more than 50 years ago. Is there also a ghost? Fairday has a new, helpful friend in classmate Marcus, and her best friend Lizzy can visit on weekends to help solve the mystery. What more could readers want? Alas, this contrived story unfolds through convenient coincidence. Too often, the writing tells rather than shows. Word choices give preference to vocabulary building rather than precision. The writers’ didactic intentions are revealed through advice about dealing with bullies. Fairday often reads and references a “prized possession,” her copy of The Wizard of Oz. She describes the “ruby- and diamond-covered high-heeled sneakers” that feature prominently in the story as “just like Dorothy's ruby slippers.” She doesn’t seem to realize the “ruby slippers” of the movie are “silver shoes” in the book she’s supposedly heard and read countless times. But savvy readers will.
A less-than-promising setup for a mystery series that will, no doubt, feature the enchanted old house and the magic shoes in sequels to come. (Mystery. 8-12)