Cardboard characters and an unbelievable plot make this contemporary mystery feel like a Nancy Drew knock-off minus the nostalgic charm.
Presumably veteran suspense author Margolin contributed the fast-moving action while his daughter Ami added the local color of the Portland, Ore., setting. Unfortunately, their efforts just don’t jell into a cohesive tale. Distraught by the unexplained absence of her best friend at the start of seventh grade, soccer fanatic Madison Kincaid tackles two very different disappearances with the help of a new (boy) friend. The second investigation centers on a missing woman whose husband is being represented by Madison’s defense-attorney dad. That only Madison would notice a particular observer in the courtroom (one who just happens to resemble the missing woman, who just happens to be Madison’s second-grade teacher) seems unlikely in the extreme. That Madison would enter the home of an accused murderer is both improbable and frighteningly foolhardy. Superficially drawn characters do little to strengthen the formulaic plot’s appeal. Madison, an excellent athlete and student, yearns for her distant, workaholic father’s attention. His elderly receptionist Peggy is Madison’s comforting confidante. Jake, the new friend, has no personality at all, while Ann, the other “missing” person, described as friendly and easygoing, seems to exist mainly as a foil for Madison and as a problem for her to solve.
Disappointingly dull. (Mystery. 9-12)