Case Closed: Tracking Down New Mysteries

Book Links January 2007 (Vol. 16, no. 3)

by Jeanette Larson

Upper elementary school through high school

Finding interesting books is the key to encouraging ­upper-elementary, middle-school, and high-school students to read for pleasure. Kids love to read mysteries, but it can take some real detective work for librarians and teachers to find new titles that will appeal to students. Good mysteries tell well-crafted stories that encourage deductive reasoning and logical thinking. Mysteries can also be wonderful vehicles for sharing information about a topic and enhancing learning. Several recent mysteries, for example, incorporate facts about forensics and science, appealing to fans of television programs like
CSI. Some mysteries incorporate biographical material about real people, inspiring readers to research the individual further on their own. Maintaining a fresh supply of mysteries is essential to keeping kids reading, and there’s no need to search any further; try some of these recommended recent offerings.


Abrahams, Peter.
Behind the Curtain. 2006. 352p. HarperCollins/Laura Geringer, $15.99 (9780060737047).

Gr. 6–9. In this second entry in the Echo Falls Mystery series, Ingrid discovers that anabolic steroids are behind her brother’s new aggressiveness (and also behind some of the mysterious behavior of various people in her town), but just as she is about to expose her discovery, she is kidnapped. Ingrid escapes, but police don’t believe her story, and she has to set up her own sting to prove she is telling the truth.

Allison, Jennifer.
Gilda Joyce: The Ladies of the Lake. 2006. 256p. Dutton/Sleuth, $15.99 (9780525476931).

Gr. 5–7. The spirited sleuth who first appeared in
Gilda Joyce: Psychic Investigator (Dutton/Sleuth, 2005) is less than pleased when her mother enrolls her in a well-respected but somewhat quirky Catholic girls’ school, Our Lady of Sorrows. Gilda’s only solace is the rumor that the school is haunted by the ghost of a drowned freshman and the mystery surrounding the girl’s death.

Anderson, M. T.
The Clue of the Linoleum Lederhosen: M. T. Anderson’s Thrilling Tales. Illus. by Kurt Cyrus. 2006. 256p. Harcourt, $15 (9780152053529).

Gr. 4–7. Lily, Jasper, and Katie find themselves in another action-filled adventure when they should be taking a vacation after solving their last case. Bold black-and-white illustrations accompany the text, which pays homage to the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew by having the kids end up at a convention for children’s mystery characters.

Balliett, Blue.
The Wright 3. ­Illus. by Brett Helquist. 2006. 320p. Scholastic, $16.99 (9780439693677).

Gr. 4–7. Sixth-grade detectives Calder and Petra, joined by friend Tommy Segovia from
Chasing Vermeer (Scholastic, 2004), form the Wright 3 to piece together a puzzle that saves a historic Frank Lloyd Wright house from being destroyed. The architectural theme, hidden images in Helquist’s chapter illustrations, and pentomino puzzles will appeal to a wide range of readers.

Broach, Elise.
Desert Crossing. 2006. 288p. Holt, $16.95 (9780805077629).

Gr. 9–12. Driving through a desert rainstorm, 14-year-old Lucy, her older brother, Jamie, and his friend Kit hit something in the road. Stopping, the three teens discover a dead girl lying on the shoulder. Although they soon learn that they are not responsible for the girl’s death, Lucy is compelled to discover who the victim was and how she died.

Clements, Andrew.
Room One: A Mystery or Two. Illus. by Chris Blair. 2006. 176p. Simon & Schuster, $15.95 (9780689866869).

Gr. 3–6. The only sixth-grader in a one-room schoolhouse with 10 students, Ted loves mysteries. While delivering papers on his morning route, Ted spots a young girl looking out of the window of an abandoned farmhouse, and he becomes embroiled in a mystery that requires him to keep a secret. Small black-and-white sketches enhance the refreshingly innocent tone of this story.

Colfer, Eoin.
Half Moon Investigations. 2006. 304p. Hyperion/Miramax, $16.95 (9780786849574).

Gr. 4–6. The graduate of an online school for detectives, 12-year-old Fletcher Moon is the self-proclaimed youngest private investigator on the planet. Hired by a classmate to find dirt on the ­notorious Sharkey brothers, Fletcher finds himself accused of a serious crime, and he discovers that the best way to clear his own name is to team up with a Sharkey.

Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan.
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. 2006. 272p. Franklin Watts, $25 (9780531169773).

Gr. 3–8. This new edition in the Scholastic Classics series features 12 stories that will appeal to young readers, including “The Red-Headed League” and “The Five Orange Pips.” Eoin Colfer’s introduction sets the stage by explaining the importance of Holmes as a detective in literature and his place as a cultural icon.

Ferguson, Alane.
The Christopher Killer. 2006. 288p. Viking/Sleuth, $15.99 (9780670060085).

Gr. 7–10. This first installment of the Forensic Mystery series introduces 17-year-old Cameryn Mahoney, who assists her father, the county coroner, with his work, including helping with autopsies. When one of her father’s cases involves the death of a friend, Cameryn investigates the murder and almost ends up becoming a victim herself. It may stretch credibility to believe that a teen would be allowed to view an autopsy, but the graphic details will appeal to CSI fans. Also see
The Angel of Death (Viking/Sleuth, 2006), the second installment in the series.

Greene, Michele Domínguez.
Chasing the Jaguar. 2006. 240p. HarperCollins, $15.99 (9780060763534).

Gr. 7–10. Martika is a typical teenager, but just before celebrating her quinceañera, or fifteenth birthday, she learns that she has psychic abilities. With the help of Tía Tellín, a curandera, or spiritual healer, Martika combines her newfound talent with good old-fashioned detective work to find a kidnapped girl and return a Mayan jaguar statue to its rightful place.

Hautman, Pete, and Mary Louge.
The Bloodwater Mysteries: Snatched. 2006. 176p. Putnam/Sleuth, $15.99 (9780399243776).

Gr. 7–10. In this first entry in the Bloodwater Mysteries series, high-school reporter Roni Delicata and science geek Brian Bain have nothing in common, until they are forced to team up and investigate the mysterious disappearance of their new classmate, Alicia. Two narratives tell the story: one following the missing girl, the other following the teen sleuths.

Johns, Linda.
Hannah West in the Belltown Towers. 2006. 160p. Puffin/Sleuth, paper, $5.99 (9780142406373).

Gr. 5–8. Twelve-year-old Hannah stumbles upon a mystery while house-sitting in Seattle’s upscale Belltown Towers. Fans of J. A. Jance’s adult mystery series featuring J. P. Beaumont may wonder why Hannah didn’t call on the neighborhood’s more famous resident for help, but teen readers will enjoy her independence and keen investigative skills as she solves a series of art thefts. For the latest title in this series, see
Hannah West in Deep Water (Puffin/Sleuth, 2006).

Joosse, Barbara M.
Dead Guys Talk. Illus. by Abby Carter. 2006. 112p. Houghton, $15 (9780618306664).

Gr. 3–5. The Scarface Detectives, three friends led by Wild Willie, receive a note directing them to go to the cemetery to help someone. When they learn that the cemetery is going to be relocated to make way for a shopping mall, the detectives set out to stop the sale of the land, even though they don’t know the identity of the mysterious client who put them on the case. Quirky black-and-white pictures with a sprinkling of amusing details illustrate this latest installment in the Wild Willie series.

Kehret, Peg.
Trapped. 2006. 192p. Dutton, $16.99 (9780525477280).

Gr. 4–6. Continuing the series of mysteries solved in collaboration with Pete the Cat, Pete’s owner, Alex, rescues a pig that has fallen off a truck. After the pig’s owner tries to reclaim it, Alex is kidnapped, and Pete must try to explain to the humans around him that the man is involved in illegal trapping.

Kidd, Ronald.
Monkey Town: The Summer of the Scopes Trial. 2006. 272p. Simon & Schuster, $15.95 (9781416905721).

Gr. 6–12. The basis for this book is the 1925 Scopes “Monkey Trial,” a legal battle that changed the course of classroom teaching in the United States. Although there is an element of mystery, the main focus of the story is on the trial itself and the legal maneuvering between the great ­attorneys Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryant.

Lalicki, Tom.
Danger in the Dark: A Houdini and Nate Mystery. 2006. 192p. Farrar, $14.95 (9780374316808).

Gr. 4–7. The author of Spellbinder: The Life of Harry Houdini (Holiday, 2000) ventures into historical mystery in this story that combines spiritualism, magic, and family secrets. A chance encounter with the great magician leads Nathaniel G. Makeworthy Fuller to uncover a plot to steal his family’s fortune.

Lisle, Janet Taylor.
Black Duck. 2006. 240p. Philomel/Sleuth, $15.99 (9780399239632).

Gr. 6–9. Hoping to get a good story for the school paper, 14-year-old David interviews an elderly neighbor about illegal smuggling during Prohibition, and the gripping story he is told is filled with mystery, murder, the Mob, and a lot of town secrets. For a slightly younger set, see
Shadow Island by Raymond Bial (Blue Horse, 2006), a modern-day novel in which 12-year-old Amanda, her little sister, and her best friend solve a long-fabled town mystery.

Mack, Tracy, and Michael Citrin.
The Fall of the Amazing Zalindas. Illus. by Greg Ruth. 2006. 272p. Orchard, $16.99 (9780439828369).

Gr. 3–7. This debut installment of the Sherlock Holmes and the Baker Street Irregulars series introduces a band of rag-tag street boys who help the master detective investigate the suspicious death of a circus high-wire performer. The book features illustrations, a dictionary of cockney slang, maps, and other Victorian background information, as well as practical tips on the art of deduction. Also see the second book in the series,
The Mystery of the Conjured Man (Orchard, 2006).

Price, Charlie.
Dead Connection. 2006. 240p. Roaring Brook, $16.95 (9781596431140).

Gr. 9–12. Murray hears dead people. The high-school student has few live friends and enjoys the comfort and solitude of the local cemetery. When he hears a new voice pleading for help, Murray thinks that it may belong to Nikki, a young cheerleader who has disappeared, and he begins to investigate her murder.

Richards, Justin.
Ghost Soldiers. 2006. 128p. Putnam/Sleuth, $10.99 (9780399245008).

Gr. 4–8. This installment of the Invisible Detective series links Arthur Drake, a contemporary teen, with four young 1930s crime solvers. Investigating a local drunk’s murder, the amateur sleuths uncover a terrifying plan to develop a monsterlike army, while modern-day Arthur mysteriously channels the story’s action in his diary passages.

Smith, Alexander McCall.
Harriet Bean and the League of Cheats. Illus. by Laura Rankin. 2006. 80p. Bloomsbury, $9.95 (9781582349763).

Gr. 3–6. Harriet helps her aunts Thessalonika and Japonica investigate corruption in horse racing by going undercover as a jockey. This is the second case for the nine-year-old detective, who used her sleuthing skills to find her aunts in
The Five Lost Aunts of Harriet Bean (Bloomsbury, 2006).

Springer, Nancy.
The Case of the Missing Marquess: An Enola Holmes Mystery. 2006. 224p. Philomel/Sleuth, $10.99 (9780399243042).

Gr. 3–6. When Sherlock ­Holmes’ younger sister, 14-year-old Enola Holmes, travels to London to investigate her mother’s disappearance, she becomes enmeshed in yet another disappearance—that of a young marquess who appears to have been kidnapped. Proving that sleuthing skills run in the family, Enola uses her powers of deduction to solve both mysteries.

Stewart, Sean, and Jordan Weisman.
Cathy’s Book: If Found Call 650-266-8233. 2006. 144p. Running Press, $17.95 (9780762426560).

Gr. 7–10. When her boyfriend, Victor, breaks up with her for seemingly no reason, Cathy can’t help but investigate the reasons for his decision, and in doing so becomes entangled in a much more dangerous mystery surrounding Victor’s true identity. Readers follow clues, call phone numbers listed in the book, and access a Web site to solve the mystery.

Informational Books

Coleman, Janet Wyman.
Secrets, Lies, Gizmos, and Spies: A History of Spies and Espionage. 2006. 128p. Abrams, $24.95 (9780810957565).

Gr. 4–8. This heavily illustrated volume, written and published in conjunction with the International Spy Museum, is chock-full of facts and details for budding secret agents. Readers explore disguises, weapons, and tools of deception, and also learn the history of espionage, key people, and important cases.

Hopping, Lorraine Jean.
Bone Detective: The Story of Forensic Anthropologist Diane France. 2005. 128p. Franklin Watts, $31 (9780531167762).

Gr. 6–10. Fans of the television series
CSI and
Bones will learn a lot from this biography, while also learning a lot about the science behind this important part of real detective work.

Forensic Connections

24/7: Science behind the Scenes. Franklin Watts. Individual titles, 64p., $25; paper, $7.95.

Gr. 7–10. Teeming with colorful graphics and photos, the titles in this series detail how forensic experts solve crimes. Elizabeth Siris Winchester’s
The Right Bite: Dentists as Detectives investigates how forensic dentists use the unique characteristics of teeth to identify criminals and victims. Books in this series, including Diane Webber’s
Do You Read Me? Famous Cases Solved by Handwriting Analysis and D. K. Barnes’
Dusted and Busted! The Science of Fingerprinting, also provide a list of professional resources, a glossary, and an index.

Rainis, Kenneth G. Forensic Science Projects. Enslow. Individual titles, 128p., $31.93.

Gr. 9–up. This series not only provides an advanced look at the methods employed by various forensic experts, it also gives readers a chance to test their crime-fighting skills with a number of experiments using common tools of the trade.
Fingerprints: Crime-Solving Science Experiments teaches readers how to capture, preserve, and analyze fingerprints, while
Hair, Clothing, and Tire Track Evidence details the finer points of retrieving and analyzing evidence at a crime scene.

Jeanette Larson is an independent consultant in Austin, Texas. A lifelong mystery reader, she is the author of
Bringing Mysteries Alive for Children and Young Adults
(Linworth, 2004) and a member of the Austin Chapter of Sisters in Crime.