The first young adult book from crime fiction icon Robert B. Parker -- best known for his Spenser (Hundred-Dollar Baby et al.) and Jesse Stone (High Profile et al.) sagas -- is set in the fall of 1945 and revolves around a group of Massachusetts eighth-graders who become entangled in a decidedly adult mystery involving their lovable teacher and a shadowy and potentially murderous nemesis.
Bobby Murphy and his four best friends (who make up the Edenville Owls basketball team) start eighth grade during a time of great social and political change: Not only has WWII finally ended, but the kids find themselves with a new and attractive teacher, the charming Miss Claudia Delaney. But when Bobby witnesses a malevolent-looking man (with a voice "like a piece of broken glass") assault Miss Delaney, he and the rest of the Edenville Owls -- along with Bobby's good friend Joanie Gibson -- vow to protect their teacher no matter what the cost. The group of amateur sleuths, via some ingenious investigative initiatives, eventually uncovers the mystery man's identity: His name is Richard Krauss -- and not only is he a raving racist, bigot, and wanted army deserter, he's Miss Delaney's ex-husband! But how can a handful of 14-year-olds persuade a madman to leave town while also protecting their teacher's reputation and job?
Parker's first foray into the young adult genre is a heartfelt and deeply nostalgic tale that will appeal not only to his adult audience but also adolescent readers who enjoy a good mystery. Highly recommended. Paul Goat Allen