The protagonist makes a remarkable, cool, and likable detective despite some literary dead weight.

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THE BODY UNDER THE PIANO

From the Aggie Morton, Mystery Queen series , Vol. 1

A fictional version of young Agatha Christie, a bloodthirsty writer, is in an excellent position to solve a gruesome mystery.

It’s 1902, and 12-year-old Aggie is a strange child in her largely white, English hometown. She’s overwhelmingly shy yet gifted with a cutthroat imagination. Thanks to her “Morbid Preoccupation,” Aggie is nearly unfazed when she discovers a corpse at her dancing lesson. But when two of Aggie’s favorite people are suspected of the murder, she is determined to learn the truth. With the help of a Belgian refugee boy named Hector Perot, Agatha must find the real killer even if her mother, the constables, and an eager journalist all get in her way. A classic anonymous letter made of letters cut out of newspaper must be a key clue, surely. Fictionalizing both the author Agatha Christie and her famous creation as characters in the same mystery is an infelicitous choice at best. Within the world of the tale, Hector adds little; Aggie is the real detective of the pair. Nonetheless, myriad little touches keep this both exciting and enjoyable. Aggie’s grandmother is funny and quite saucy. The girl’s grief over her recently dead father manifests genuinely: as sudden flashes of grief, as irritation with his financial mismanagement, and as fond recollections of the delicious cake that had appeared in the wake of his death.

The protagonist makes a remarkable, cool, and likable detective despite some literary dead weight. (author’s note, sources) (Historical mystery. 9-11)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-73526-546-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Tundra

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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A smart, fresh take on an old favorite makes for a terrific series kickoff

THE GREAT SHELBY HOLMES

From the Shelby Holmes series , Vol. 1

A modern Sherlock Holmes retelling brings an 11-year-old black John Watson into the sphere of know-it-all 9-year-old white detective Shelby Holmes.

John's an Army brat who's lived in four states already. Now, with his parents' divorce still fresh, the boy who's lived only on military bases must explore the wilds of Harlem. His new life in 221A Baker St. begins inauspiciously, as before he's even finished moving in, his frizzy-haired neighbor blows something up: "BOOM!" But John's great at making friends, and Shelby certainly seems like an interesting kid to know. Oddly loquacious, brusque, and extremely observant, Shelby's locally famous for solving mysteries. John’s swept up in her detecting when a wealthy, brown-skinned classmate enlists their help in the mysterious disappearance of her beloved show dog, Daisy. Whatever could have happened to the prizewinning Cavalier King Charles spaniel? Has she been swiped by a jealous competitor? Has Daisy’s trainer—mysteriously come into enough money to take a secret weekend in Cozumel—been placing bets against his own dog? Brisk pacing, likable characters, a few silly Holmes jokes ("I'm Petunia Cumberbatch," says Shelby while undercover), and a diverse neighborhood, carefully and realistically described by John, are ingredients for success.

A smart, fresh take on an old favorite makes for a terrific series kickoff . (Mystery. 9-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-68119-051-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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Flimsily entertaining

THE SECRET OF WHITE STONE GATE

From the Black Hollow Lane series , Vol. 2

An American schoolgirl in a British boarding school battles a secret society in this adventure.

In this trope-y sequel to The Mystery of Black Hollow Lane (2019), the students at Wellsworth must stay safe from the evil order that’s been there for generations and still entangles their parents. Emmy, a white, well-to-do Connecticut 12-year-old, is determined to return to Wellsworth even though last year she was nearly killed. The Order of Black Hollow Lane, the mysterious bad guys who are disguised as the school’s Latin Society, want something from Emmy. Her long-lost father, for one, and Emmy’s box of medallions, for another. Why? Do they really need a reason aside from being an evil club full of wickedness determined to find a whole box of MacGuffins that will somehow make them even richer and more powerful or at least propel the plot? In any case the dastardly fiends plague Emmy, framing one of her best friends for theft and leaving cryptic notes and computer files to threaten the lives of Emmy’s loved ones. Though the Order has infiltrated this (nearly all-white, wealthy) school for generations, Emmy must somehow defeat them and save her dad. The quest is peppered with spy-thriller moments that are mostly only thinly sketched and go nowhere, though some (such as a disguise right out of Scooby Doo cartoons) are funny enough to keep the action moving.

Flimsily entertaining . (Adventure. 9-11)

Pub Date: March 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4926-6467-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Sourcebooks Young Readers

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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