An engrossing, good-humored page-turner.


A middle-grade mystery set in the American South serves up murder and mayhem with a side of hot mustard.

After his Marine hero father died five years ago, Cooper Steven Goodman and his mother, Delilah, took up residence with his paternal grandfather, Dr. Harley Goodman, in bucolic Windy Bottom, Georgia. (Despite the setting and several Civil War references, race plays no part in the story, and all characters are assumed white.) Now 13, Coop spends most of his time with best friends Justice and Liberty, brother-and-sister twins whose parents co-own A Latté Books, Windy Bottom’s only bookstore/cafe, with Coop’s mother. A few days before seventh grade begins, a playground renovation disinters the earthly remains of Tabby Goodman, Coop’s grandmother, who allegedly skipped town four decades earlier, and shatters the small town’s idyllic peace. As evidence stacks up, Coop reckons with revelations that rattle his family’s history. How could he have known his grandmother was the heiress to a shipping fortune? That his grandfather jilted his high school sweetheart when he returned from college? That Gramps’ lifelong injunctions against drinking and gambling are rooted in practice, not principle? Coop’s narration, playful language, nuanced characters, intricate plotting, and a bittersweet conclusion help transform a slow-as-molasses whodunit into a race against the clock. Can Coop and his friends clear Gramps’ name in time—or is everything he thought he knew a lie?

An engrossing, good-humored page-turner. (Mystery. 9-13)

Pub Date: July 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4926-4018-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Sourcebooks Young Readers

Review Posted Online: April 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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Full of puzzles to think about, puns to groan at and references to children’s book titles, this solid, tightly plotted read...


From the Mr. Lemoncello's Library series , Vol. 1

When a lock-in becomes a reality game, 12-year-old Kyle Keeley and his friends use library resources to find their way out of Alexandriaville’s new public library.

The author of numerous mysteries for children and adults turns his hand to a puzzle adventure with great success. Starting with the premise that billionaire game-maker Luigi Lemoncello has donated a fortune to building a library in a town that went without for 12 years, Grabenstein cleverly uses the tools of board and video games—hints and tricks and escape hatches—to enhance this intricate and suspenseful story. Twelve 12-year-old winners of an essay contest get to be the first to see the new facility and, as a bonus, to play his new escape game. Lemoncello’s gratitude to the library of his childhood extends to providing a helpful holographic image of his 1968 librarian, but his modern version also includes changing video screens, touch-screen computers in the reading desks and an Electronic Learning Center as well as floor-to-ceiling bookshelves stretching up three stories. Although the characters, from gamer Kyle to schemer Charles Chiltington, are lightly developed, the benefits of pooling strengths to work together are clear.

Full of puzzles to think about, puns to groan at and references to children’s book titles, this solid, tightly plotted read is a winner for readers and game-players alike. (Mystery. 9-13)

Pub Date: June 25, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-375-87089-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2013

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A smart, fresh take on an old favorite makes for a terrific series kickoff


From the Shelby Holmes series , Vol. 1

A modern Sherlock Holmes retelling brings an 11-year-old black John Watson into the sphere of know-it-all 9-year-old white detective Shelby Holmes.

John's an Army brat who's lived in four states already. Now, with his parents' divorce still fresh, the boy who's lived only on military bases must explore the wilds of Harlem. His new life in 221A Baker St. begins inauspiciously, as before he's even finished moving in, his frizzy-haired neighbor blows something up: "BOOM!" But John's great at making friends, and Shelby certainly seems like an interesting kid to know. Oddly loquacious, brusque, and extremely observant, Shelby's locally famous for solving mysteries. John’s swept up in her detecting when a wealthy, brown-skinned classmate enlists their help in the mysterious disappearance of her beloved show dog, Daisy. Whatever could have happened to the prizewinning Cavalier King Charles spaniel? Has she been swiped by a jealous competitor? Has Daisy’s trainer—mysteriously come into enough money to take a secret weekend in Cozumel—been placing bets against his own dog? Brisk pacing, likable characters, a few silly Holmes jokes ("I'm Petunia Cumberbatch," says Shelby while undercover), and a diverse neighborhood, carefully and realistically described by John, are ingredients for success.

A smart, fresh take on an old favorite makes for a terrific series kickoff . (Mystery. 9-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-68119-051-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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