Stim’s entertaining debut takes the reader into a houseboat community as a young preteen tries to catch a killer.

Mary Francis Jackson, 12, known as “Frankie” to her friends, is spending the summer with her aunt Roxy in Sausalito, Calif. Roxy lives on a houseboat, and Frankie enjoys spending her days getting to know her aunt’s eccentric neighbors. It helps Frankie forget the reason she’s in California instead of her home state of New Jersey—she got into trouble after retaliating against a boy who had been teasing her mercilessly. Frankie is determined to have a quiet, uneventful summer, but when a cat is killed and the owner fingers Frankie as the culprit, Frankie must work to clear her name. To do that she must catch the cat’s true murderer, so she begins to sleuth around the houseboat community to uncover the residents’ secrets. Though Frankie is an endearing, resourceful character, she is underdeveloped; while she remains appealing throughout, she never becomes truly sympathetic. The secondary characters are better fleshed-out, though some, such as a washed-up former TV star, come across as caricatures. The houseboat setting is vividly described, the plot moves quickly and readers will be entertained by Frankie’s antics as they try to guess the identity of the cat killer. The ending twist is creative, and readers will be amused as the perpetrator comes to light. Though the novel is riddled with unrealistic plot points, such as a 12-year-old being fitted with a house-arrest anklet by a judge, it’s a fast-paced, entertaining read. Despite its flaws, the book has a charming main character and a diverting plot sure to appeal to fans of whodunit novels.


Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2011

ISBN: 978-1453815960

Page Count: 336

Publisher: a&r/ENT

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2012

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A treat for mystery readers who enjoy being kept in suspense.


Everyone believes that Salil Singh killed his girlfriend, Andrea Bell, five years ago—except Pippa Fitz-Amobi.

Pip has known and liked Sal since childhood; he’d supported her when she was being bullied in middle school. For her senior capstone project, Pip researches the disappearance of former Fairview High student Andie, last seen on April 18, 2014, by her younger sister, Becca. The original investigation concluded with most of the evidence pointing to Sal, who was found dead in the woods, apparently by suicide. Andie’s body was never recovered, and Sal was assumed by most to be guilty of abduction and murder. Unable to ignore the gaps in the case, Pip sets out to prove Sal’s innocence, beginning with interviewing his younger brother, Ravi. With his help, Pip digs deeper, unveiling unsavory facts about Andie and the real reason Sal’s friends couldn’t provide him with an alibi. But someone is watching, and Pip may be in more danger than she realizes. Pip’s sleuthing is both impressive and accessible. Online articles about the case and interview transcripts are provided throughout, and Pip’s capstone logs offer insights into her thought processes as new evidence and suspects arise. Jackson’s debut is well-executed and surprises readers with a connective web of interesting characters and motives. Pip and Andie are white, and Sal is of Indian descent.

A treat for mystery readers who enjoy being kept in suspense. (Mystery. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-9636-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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A fast-paced, plot-driven page-turner for fans of darker mysteries.


A teen fights to survive in the midst of a mystery not unlike the ones she enjoys reading.

In the small town of Mauveton, 11 teenagers have disappeared in the past six months. The police seem to be writing them off as runaways, but introverted 16-year-old crime enthusiast Piper and her friend Hazel believe there is more to the story. The girls decide to investigate the disappearances by following in the footsteps of the missing teens right before they supposedly ran away. While hanging out at the local lake where most of the town’s teens spend their free time during the summer, they run into a couple of wealthy local college boys. They soon discover the truth: Locked away in a hidden compound filled with horrific surprises, Piper has to find the will to survive and make it back to her parents alive, especially since they already lost one daughter. Preston (You Will Be Mine, 2018, etc.) weaves a terrifying tale with unexpected friendships, romance, and surprising twists. Most characters are assumed white, but there is some diversity in secondary characters. While the unforeseen twists and unexpected ending make this an intriguing read, the story moves very quickly, leaving little room for relationships and characters to develop believably.

A fast-paced, plot-driven page-turner for fans of darker mysteries. (Thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4926-5226-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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