Teenage spy-in-training Ruby Redfort sniffs out something rotten in the town of Twinford in her third outing.
Ruby’s injured, ill and feeling her nascent career as a field agent hanging by a thread in the wake of a disastrous wilderness-survival test. She nonetheless soldiers on intrepidly as Child draws together seemingly unrelated incidents and puzzles: antique jewelry disappearing from a posh department store, rumored sightings of exotic creatures on the loose, Ruby’s best friend’s struggles to earn his father’s respect, an attractive stranger ruthlessly interrogating a captive in a windowless warehouse, a forest fire, a corpse, legends of a particularly dangerous wolf and more. Ultimately, it all turns out to be a scheme involving a certain mind-altering musk, and not only does the author create a properly redolent atmosphere from the outset by pouring references to scents, odors, stinks and perfumes into the narrative, she concocts an actual cipher based on fragrances for Ruby to solve. The many short chapters and changes in point of view give the narrative an aimless air, but it moves more quickly than the page count suggests to a moderately suspenseful climax that leaves this expert sleuth, forger, lock-picker and sneak on her feet. Stay tuned for further adventures.
Not exactly a high-tension page-turner, but an entertaining escapade with an offbeat whiff. (multiple afterwords) (Mystery. 9-14)