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.