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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This gripping page-turner will keep readers guessing until the final twist.


Seventeen-year-old Hunter Gifford has no memories of the car accident he was in the night of the homecoming dance with Chloe Summers, his now-missing girlfriend.

In the small southern Kentucky city of Bentley, comments on social media condemn Hunter as responsible for Chloe’s disappearance. When he attends the community vigil for her, Chloe’s mother publicly accuses Hunter of obstructing the investigation. Hunter’s own mom died when he was 15 and his sister, Olivia, was 12. Their dad has awkwardly attempted to pull his weight as a solo parent, and Hunter has stepped in and nurtured Livvy. Small but mighty Livvy is an ardent defender of her brother and is fiercely in love with her girlfriend, Gabriela. To make things worse, childhood friend Daniel informs Hunter that he’s making a true-crime documentary about Chloe. Hunter is upset, especially since it makes him look like a prime suspect, and a subsequent dramatic event draws more attention to the video. Hunter and Chloe met in creative writing club, and he knew she kept a journal—but it’s missing. Enter the sleuthing team of Hunter, Livvy, and Gabriela, who hatch a plan to find it. The dynamics between Hunter and Livvy and Livvy and Gabriela are endearing and will charm readers, who will root for them to solve the well-executed mystery. Main characters default to White; Gabriela is Mexican American.

This gripping page-turner will keep readers guessing until the final twist. (Thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-72825-420-3

Page Count: 360

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2022

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This fast-paced thriller will keep readers guessing.


This perspective-jumping thriller shows you the two sides of fear.

Izzy has had a crush on Justin forever, but in her last year at Rock Bay High, will she be able to finally talk to him, or will the sudden violent death of a classmate put a wrench in the situation? After a meme daring everyone to repost how they are most afraid to die races through the teenage population, a student appears to have been killed exactly in the way she had feared. Izzy must race against time to find the killer, and with no shortage of suspects, everyone is under suspicion: her loner lab partner, Axel; his older cousin, Tristan; and even Justin, who has been acting strange. It becomes clear no one is safe from experiencing fear. This swift-moving slasher adventure proves to be a page-turning mystery. The book is written in the first-person perspective, allowing readers a deeper view into Izzy’s mind; whether she is thinking Axel is innocent or the killer, her stream of thought and persistent questioning give readers clues to help connect the dots before surprising them with clever plot twists at the end. Main characters read as White; there is racial diversity in the supporting cast.

This fast-paced thriller will keep readers guessing. (Thriller. 12-18)

Pub Date: March 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-12501-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022

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