An ambitious and affecting murder tale.

THE GIRL ON RUSK STREET

A debut YA novel tells the story of a quiet Texas community struck by a horrendous crime.

Bobbi Rogers has an idyllic life in Marshall, Texas, in the early 1960s. With her best friends, Katie Baxter and Lawrence “Law” Miller, she has the run of Rusk Street, building forts in the woods and observing the comings and goings of their neighbors. She takes special interest when Lucille Harris moves to town to teach music at the local black college. The young widow “looks like a real movie star,” though her place of employment raises eyebrows among her white neighbors. Bobbi quickly becomes enamored of her, as does Jim Tressell, a gardening enthusiast and husband to a wheelchair-bound wife. Bobbi, age 10, is only beginning to become aware of the bleaker side of life, like the racism felt toward the students of the black college or the “Peepin’ Tom” who was seen peering in through her neighbors’ window. Bobbi’s innocence is shattered for good, however, when Lucille is brutally murdered one night in her kitchen. The citizens of Rusk Street quickly start to speculate who the culprit is and whether Lucille may have brought the tragedy upon herself. Jim is arrested for the crime, but as the trial unfolds, there are more questions unearthed than answers. Bobbi’s quest to discover her friend’s killer will force her to examine the latent darkness at the heart of her beloved Rusk Street. Carlile writes in a colorful prose that deftly evokes the curiosity and naiveté of her narrator: “Daddy said that when people were married for a long time, they started to look alike. I thought that was a funny thing to say, but maybe he was right. Both of the Van Worths had stooped shoulders, gray hair and pinched-in faces.” The community of Rusk Street is skillfully drawn, and the mystery at the center of the novel is compelling and surprising. The book is slightly bloated at 300-plus pages, and the ending is not quite as sharp as it should be. But it still manages to call to mind a certain classic novel about racism and a trial in the Depression-era South.

An ambitious and affecting murder tale.

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-973939-02-3

Page Count: 234

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2017

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THE HIGH-RISE PRIVATE EYES

THE CASE OF THE PUZZLING POSSUM

Bunny Brown and Jack Jones, ace detectives, join forces again to solve their third easy-reader mystery in this snappy new series from Newbery Medalist Rylant, author of the beloved Henry and Mudge books. Bunny the bunny is the practical brains of the detective duo, and Jack the raccoon is her humorous sidekick, who is even funnier in this book than in the previous volumes, The Case of the Missing Monkey (not reviewed) and The Case of the Climbing Cat (2000). In this case, Bunny and Jack solve the chronic disappearance (and reappearance) of a trombone from a neighborhood music store. The puzzling possum of the title, Freddy, has been repeatedly "borrowing" the trombone so he can play at hayride entertainments with Gus's Big Brass Boys. Bunny and Jack nab him red-handed, and Bunny offers the practical solution of paying for the trombone by giving lessons at the music store. The combination easy-reader, easy-mystery follows the established format of a few clues, a mild neighborhood mystery, and lots of clever puns and jokes that will delight the intended audience. The humor is exactly on track for the early elementary grades, including a squashed marshmallow on Jack's seat and a quick rush to the bathroom following some dizzying explanations by the music-store owner (just the sort of jokes first graders adore). Karas's engaging illustrations in acrylic, gouache, and pencil help create unique personalities for Bunny and Jack. It's no mystery why this series is successful, and this endearing duo seems destined to crack many more cases of minor mischief in their urban neighborhood. (Easy reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2001

ISBN: 0-688-16308-4

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2001

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SAMMY KEYS AND THE HOLLYWOOD MUMMY

With doughty sidekick Marissa in tow, resourceful, fast-talking Sammy sets out for Tinsel Town, to pay a surprise visit to her wayward, star-struck mother, Lana. It’s a surprise all right: her mother, passing herself off as a 25-year-old, is living with 11 other aspiring actresses in the palatial home, and firmly under the thumb, of aging but legendary agent Max Mueller. The very morning after the young folks’ unwelcome arrival, one of those actresses is found dead—in circumstances that, to Sammy’s dismay, strongly implicate her mother. Or was Lana actually the intended victim? Max’s home, filled with Egyptian antiquities, makes a properly oddball setting into which Van Draanen throws a fine array of suspects and complicating side plots, from stolen jewels and a hidden burial chamber to a fiery young Jamaican housemaid’s appalling discovery that she is Max’s daughter. Sammy puts the pieces together just in time for a (literally) explosive climactic rescue, as she hurtles into a crowded, trendy restaurant to force the old salt-and-coffee purge down her mother’s throat to keep her from swallowing poisoned wine. Sammy’s sixth high-energy whodunit keeps up the breathless pace of its predecessors, and by the end, Sammy has gone a long way toward forgiving Lana for deserting her. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-375-80266-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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