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

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 Books

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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Superb storytelling.

FRANKIE & BUG

When Bug’s traditional summer routine is shaken up, her entire life changes.

It’s 1987, and 10-year-old Beatrice “Bug” Contreras has a plan: spend her summer months with her brother, Danny, on Venice Beach as she has for the past two years. But when 14-year-old Danny—who has matured into the name Daniel—wants more time to himself, Bug learns she will be instead hanging out with 11-year-old Frankie, the nephew of Phillip, her mother’s best friend and their upstairs neighbor. Frankie, who is visiting from Ohio, is trans at a time before this identity was well understood and has not been treated with kindness or acceptance by his parents. Frankie and Bug become fascinated with trying to solve the case of the Midnight Marauder, a serial killer who has been striking in the area. When Phillip is attacked, ending up in the hospital, their investigation swivels, and the titular characters uncover a few untold family tales. Bug and Daniel’s late father was a professor from El Salvador with Indigenous ancestry who spoke Nahuatl as well as Spanish and English. Biracial identity is explored in part through the differences in the siblings’ physical appearances: Their mother is implied to be White, and Daniel—who resembles their father more than Bug does—experiences more overt racism and dives into an exploration of his Salvadoran heritage. Readers interested in complex emotional development and relationships will appreciate each character's subtle nuances.

Superb storytelling. (resources, author’s note) (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-8253-1

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: Aug. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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