Every good crime reporter has got to start somewhere, and for Roni Delicata, the first step to her celebrated career is a beat for the school newspaper. Tired of writing about stolen locker magnets and keyed vehicles in the parking lot, Roni isn't about to let a better story get away from her. When her new classmate, Alicia Camden, is kidnapped, beaten, and released, Roni's eager to get to the heart of the matter. If it means recruiting the aid of ninth-grade geek Brian Bain she'll do itafter all, Brian's mom is the lead detective on the case, so he's a handy ally to have. Soon, the pair are tracking down suspects, talking to witnesses, and trekking along the coast like experienced detectives ... well, almost. Roni and Brian have a lot to learn before they'll give Holmes and Watson a run for their money. Will their clumsy detecting be good enough to solve this odd mystery? What will happen to the teen sleuths if they're found to be on the path of the guilty party? Hautman and Logue's first entry into "The Bloodwater Mysteries" is an engaging, humorous, and suspenseful novel.
Children's Literature - Heidi Hauser Green
Two accomplished authors come together to construct a layered plot with lots of quirky characters and create a mystery centered on a girl's abduction. Have these authors managed to forge the perfect storm of young adult literature? Not quite, but it is pretty darn good. The opening sentence, "Alicia watched the blood drip from her nose to the grass," will jump-start teens to quickly turn pages. The engrossing beginning discloses Alicia's abuse, but who kidnapped her? Hot on the trail of the unknown criminal are two unlikely collaborators, P. Q. Delicata, (real name Roni, which is short for Petronella), an intrepid newshound for the school paper, and Brian Bain, a thirteen-year-old claiming that he is fourteen. The pair first met in the principal's office. Brian had the slight problem of unauthorized use of the chemistry lab and Roni violated the school's zero-tolerance violence policy. From this unlikely connection, the amateur sleuths scour the town of Bloodwater, uncovering clues, suspects, and plenty of red herrings. Very short chapters-often less than two pages-mark this book as a quick read for readers younger than ninth grade. An alternating narrative format provides voices for Roni, Brian, and Alicia. Roni and Brian are clever and likeable teens, each determined to solve the felony, but astute mystery fans will home in on Alicia's issues and subsequent dilemma. Add this one to the "Great Middle School Mysteries" bibliography that already lists Flush by Carl Hiaasen (Knopf, 2005/VOYA October 2005) and The Last Shot: A Final Four Mystery by John Feinstein (Knopf, 2005/VOYA February 2005). VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P M J (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YAappeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2006, Sleuth/G.P. Putnam's, 176p., Ages 11 to 15.
Gr 7-11-Eleventh-grader Roni Delicata is the sometimes pushy but always dedicated reporter for the school paper, Bloodwater Pump. She meets science geek Brian Bain, 14, when both are in trouble with the principal. They discover that Alicia Camden, the snooty new kid who lives in a mansion with her cold mother and bland stepfather, has been kidnapped. Through sheer force of personality, Roni involves Brian in her determination to crack the case. Could the culprit be Alicia's stepfather? Driftwood Doug? And what about Alicia's unpleasant ex-boyfriend? There are several mysteries here, and some unusual twists. The mixture of suspense and humor is effective, particularly in the interactions between complete opposites Roni and Brian. The authors are able to manage the rapid unfolding of the plot while still allowing for character development. Ultimately, straight-arrow Brian decides that while Roni can be a bit of a pain, she is also a lot of fun. This mystery will likely appeal to older reluctant readers.-B. Allison Gray, John Jermain Library, Sag Harbor, NY Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
This lightweight whodunit stays puzzling through trickery. Brian Bain just wants to stay out of trouble for a little while, for since his last adventure in the chemistry lab he's been grounded. However, when a fellow student is kidnapped, Brian teams up with student journalist Roni to solve the mystery. Alicia, the kidnapped girl, was the victim of a brutal mugging the week before-could her disappearance be connected to the beating? Brian and Roni investigate ex-boyfriends, absent-minded adults and an island full of frightening but entertaining squatters. A reader who can see through the mystery's misdirection might solve the puzzle before Brian and Roni. A frustratingly casual treatment of child abuse mars this venture, however; a woman who's known to be responsible for a child's vicious beating strikes that child in front of the police and is not immediately restrained or ever arrested. If the story contained any condemnation of this behavior, perhaps it wouldn't be so jarring, but the characters seem more willing to condemn potential male abusers than actual female ones. (Fiction. 10-12)