Lark travels to Lake Erie’s Swallowtail Island with her younger sister, Pip, and their stepdad and his three sons for a life-changing summer adventure.
They’re going to stay in the house that their mother bequeathed to Lark and Pip. Lark, who narrates with wit and insight, is having a hard time with her mother’s recent death and being part of a blended family. But working as an assistant for Nadine Pritchard, her mom’s childhood friend who is researching a book and trying to solve a land dispute tied to a suspicious death 75 years ago, is the perfect distraction. Twelve-year-old Lark meets 93-year-old Dinah Purdy, the book’s subject and an African American trailblazer whose property lies at the heart of the mystery (the rest of the cast defaults to White). After Lark lashes out violently at soccer camp, Dinah, who is experienced in nonviolent protest, becomes her mentor, helping her resolve her feelings. Lark learns she’s got super skills for tracking down clues, not to mention moxie in the face of intimidating bluster from the main beneficiary of the crime. Reports, letters, and spot art are interspersed. Each character, historic and contemporary, sparks with life. Lark’s process and the reveals are perfectly paced. Descriptions of the island and weather, plus some dramatic moments on rough water, help build atmospheric tension. Most heartwarming, Lark develops feelings of loyalty toward her blended family and uncovers a surprising link to their property.
Readers will be hooked—more, please!(maps) (Mystery. 8-12)