Family secrets, an unsolved bank robbery, summer on a lake, a treasure island and a first romance are the ingredients for this inviting middle-grade mystery.
Unhappy with his new life and new stepfather in Southern California, 13-year-old Trav runs away to the small town in Minnesota where his dad grew up and his grandmother lives. He quickly learns why his mother won’t talk about his father, who died before he was born. Suspected of having robbed a local bank, the man disappeared in a storm, his boat washed up on an island in the lake. Everyone figures Trav knows where the money is, a theory confirmed when some of the burgled money turns up in local stores after his arrival. Trav manages to convince neighbor kid Kenny and his hot cousin Iz of his innocence, and together, they try to figure out where the loot might have been stashed and who has sent Trav a threatening note. Careful plotting and end-of-chapter cliffhangers add to the suspense. The first-person narration suggests that Trav’s imagination has been fed by too much television, but the imagined threats become frighteningly real as the story progresses. Trav’s voice is believable, Bullard’s Minnesota setting full of convincing detail, and the boy’s hesitant romantic efforts add a pleasant embellishment.
A promising fiction debut. (Mystery. 9-12)