In a New York City apartment building, two lonely children, a pie-baking grandmother and a talking pigeon connect in this gratifying mystery.
Eleven-year-old Nicky has mostly stayed in his room ever since his mother moved to India two years ago, and his “Time-Out Average” has spiked to .750. One floor below, Indian-American Lucy, also 11, a budding forensic scientist and graphologist interested in the study of handwriting, has just moved to the city. Although she’s been unlucky making new friends and gathering more samples for her handwriting journal, she’s reluctant to get to know Nicky. But when the resident talking pigeon intervenes, Lucy soon finds herself putting her sleuthing skills to the test to help Nicky find his missing Grandma Zelda, who never leaves her apartment (only one floor above). Believing “you are what you write,” Lucy offers witty writing rules (e.g., “Life changes lead to letter changes”), which guide the suspense. Simulated writing samples and actual signatures of such notable individuals from history as Eleanor Roosevelt, Al Capone and, of course, John Hancock, fuel Lucy’s forensic applications. When Nicky’s father becomes a prime suspect, his grandmother’s disappearance also becomes a moral dilemma.
A quick and steady story for readers who like some substance to their mystery but are not quite ready for the complexity of Blue Balliett. (author’s note) (Mystery. 8-12)