The Scene of the Crime: Investigating New Mysteries

Book Links January 2008 (vol. 17, no. 3)

By Jeanette Larson

Upper elementary school through high school

Take the detective work out of finding high-interest reading for students with these recent mysteries and informational titles.

It doesn’t take a detective to figure out that mysteries are popular. One look at today’s many mystery television programs and movies and it’s easy to see that the genre is booming. Mystery books are also part of this trend and can transport readers to a different time and place. Sometimes real-life figures even play a role in the plot.

Mysteries encourage readers to define problems, sequence events, look for clues, assess evidence, and reach conclusions—all valuable skills for research and learning. Make your library or classroom the scene of the crime and help young readers become great detectives with the following recent offerings.

Younger Fiction

Cam Jansen and the Mystery Writer Mystery. By David A. Adler. Illus. by Joy Allen. 2007. 64p. Viking, $13.99 (9780670061990).

Gr. 1–3. In this latest installment in the Cam Jansen series, a family’s car is stolen during the school’s book fair and Cam uses her photographic memory to match wits with a famous mystery writer. Who will solve the case? Also see
Cam Jansen and the Summer Camp Mysteries: A Super Special (Viking, 2007).

The Faceless Fiend: Being the Tale of a Criminal Mastermind, His Masked Minions, and a Princess with a Butter Knife, Involving Explosives and a Certain Amount of Pushing and Shoving. By Howard Whitehouse. Illus. by Bill Slavin. 2007. 272p. Kids Can, $16.95 (9781554531301); paper, $7.95 (9781554531806).

Gr. 3–6. In the sequel to
The Strictest School in the World (Kids Can, 2006), two mysterious men abduct Princess Purnah from St. Grimelda’s School for Young Ladies. Emmaline, Rubberbones, and friends, including Sherlock Holmes, set out to thwart the dastardly evil-doers.

The Ghost of Poplar Point. By Cynthia DeFelice. 2007. 192p. Farrar, $16 (9780374325404).

Gr. 3–6. Allie Nichols, the “Ghost Magnet,” has just finished sixth grade and is looking forward to summer vacation. However, the spirit of a girl who died centuries earlier won’t leave her alone, and Allie and her friend Dub will have to solve the mystery of an ancient Seneca village before they can enjoy their summer break.

Hiss Me Deadly: A Chet Gecko Mystery. By Bruce Hale. 2007. 144p. Harcourt, $15 (9780152054823).

Gr. 2–4. When a dastardly villain steals Mama Gecko’s pearl necklace and several other items from Emerson Hicky Elementary, Principal Zero hires the gumshoe gecko to ferret out the slimy thief. The thirteenth case is just as wacky and weird as the previous titles in the series.

Horrible Harry Cracks the Code. By Suzy Kline. Illus. by Frank Remkiewicz. 2007. 80p. Viking, $13.99 (9780670062003).

Gr. 2–4. Horrible Harry imagines that he is a detective second only to the great Sherlock Holmes. When his classmates disagree, Harry sets out to solve the mystery of Mrs. Funderburke’s mathematical code.

The Name of This Book Is Secret. By Pseudonymous Bosch. Illus. by Gilbert Ford. 2007. 384p. Little, Brown, $16.99 (9780316113663).

Gr. 4–6. Eleven-year-olds Cass and Max-Ernest solve a mystery surrounding the death of a magician by using the clues he left behind and uncover a secret society bent on immortality. Puzzles and word games lead the way to danger.

Rider in the Night: A Tale of Sleepy Hollow. By Candice Ransom. Illus. by Greg Call. 2007. 128p. Mirrorstone, paper, $4.99 (9780786943548).

Gr. 3–6. The fifth title in the Time Spies series transports the Chapman kids back in time to uncover the real identity of the Headless Horseman. Much like Mary Pope Osborne’s Magic Tree House titles, this book is a blend of light mystery, history, and adventure.

The Secret of the Painted House. By Marion Dane Bauer. Illus. by Leonid Gore. 2007. 112p. Random, $11.99 (9780375840791).

Gr. 2–4. When Emily finds a mysterious playhouse in the woods near her new home, the ghost of a lonely girl draws her inside a series of mazes. Emily must solve the puzzles and figure out the playhouse’s secrets or she might never get out.

Shots at Sea: A Houdini and Nate Mystery. By Tom Lalicki. 2007. 208p. Farrar, $15.95 (9780374316792).

Gr. 4–6. Nate Fuller and his mentor, Harry Houdini, set sail on an ocean liner with Teddy Roosevelt, and the duo must help foil an attempt to assassinate the former president. For more of this historical series, see
Danger in the Dark (Farrar, 2006).

Sly the Sleuth and the Food Mysteries. By Donna Jo Napoli and Robert Furrow. Illus. by Heather Maione. 2007. 128p. Dial, $16.99 (9780803731196).

Gr. 1–3. The grade-school gumshoe from
Sly the Sleuth and the Pet Mysteries (Dial, 2005) and
Sly the Sleuth and the Sports Mysteries (Dial, 2006) returns for another round of cases, this time involving food. Someone is littering, stealing food, and tampering with cookie ingredients, and it’s up to Sly the Sleuth to solve these neighborhood mysteries.

The Traitors’ Gate. By Avi. Illus. by Karina Raude. 2007. 368p. Simon & Schuster/Richard Jackson, $17.99 (9780689853357).

Gr. 4–7. When his father is hauled off to debtors’ prison for gambling debts, 14-year-old John Huffman suspects that there is more to the story and begins his own investigation. Avi’s nineteenth-century tale is filled with spies, intrigue, and treachery.

Older Fiction

Blood Brothers. By S. A. Harazin. 2007. 240p. Delacorte, $15.99 (9780385733649).

Gr. 9–12. Seventeen-year-old Clay struggles as a medical technician and dreams of someday becoming a doctor. When his best friend, Joey, overdoses at a party, Clay is targeted as the source of the drugs, and he must uncover the real source to clear his name.

Brothers, Boyfriends, and Other Criminal Minds. By April Lurie. 2007. 304p. Delacorte, $15.99 (9780385731249).

Gr. 7–9. April has always felt safe in her mob-run Brooklyn neighborhood until Salvatore “Soft Sal” Luciano makes the 14-year-old an offer she can’t refuse. Set in 1977, this slightly autobiographical novel colorfully combines romance, history, and mystery with a touch of
The Sopranos.

The Case of the Left-Handed Lady. By Nancy Springer. 2007. 192p. Philomel/Sleuth, $12.99 (9780399245176

Gr. 6–9. In
The Case of the Missing Marquess (Philomel/Sleuth, 2006), Springer introduced 14-year-old Enola Holmes, Sherlock’s younger sister. In this book, Enola starts her own detective agency in London, complete with costumes and circumventions to hide her age. For more in the series, see
The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets (Philomel/Sleuth, 2008).

Cover-Up: Mystery at the Super Bowl. By John Feinstein. 2007. 304p. Knopf, $16.99 (9780375842474).

Gr. 6–9. Teen journalists Steve Thomas and Susan Carol Anderson expose a plot to cover up drug use by football players during the Super Bowl in the third book of this popular series that combines mystery and sports. Although the teens know that a crime has been committed, can they find the proof to make their case? For more of the series, see
Last Shot (Knopf, 2005) and
Vanishing Act (Knopf, 2006).

Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy. By Ally Carter. 2007. 240p. Hyperion, $16.99 (9781423100058).

Gr. 5–8. Cammie and the students at Gallagher Academy, a secret spy school for girls, are blamed for a series of security breaches that may put the school’s top-secret clearance at risk. This sequel to
I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You (Hyperion, 2006) includes romance, espionage, and intrigue.

Do the Math: Secrets, Lies, and Algebra. By Wendy Lichtman. 2007. 192p. Greenwillow, $16.99 (9780061229558).

Gr. 5–8. Thirteen-year-old Tess thinks her mother’s friend has killed his wife, and she and a friend set out on their own investigation. At the same time, Tess grapples with her firsthand knowledge of a stolen exam. Although the mystery is somewhat tangential to the math, this is a fast, fun, and logical story.

Evil Genius. By Catherine Jinks. 2007. 496p. Harcourt, $17 (9780152059880). Paperback available April 2008

Gr. 6–9. Cadel Piggott has been perfecting his criminal ways since an early age. At 14 he has even mastered many of the subjects required for a degree in world domination. But when he falls in love with Kay-Lee, Cadel begins to question his career path as a master criminal and must try to stop an evil plot.

Eye of the Crow: The Boy Sherlock Holmes, His First Case. By Shane Peacock. 2007. 260p. Tundra, $19.95 (9780887768507).

Gr. 5–8. Late one night in London’s East End, a woman is murdered and there are no witnesses. Young Sherlock Holmes must use deductive reasoning to solve the case. Along the way, readers learn about the early life of the world’s greatest fictional detective and discover how, as a teenager, he honed his skills.

The Falconer’s Knot: A Story of Friars, Flirtation, and Foul Play. By Mary Hoffman. 2007. 288p. Bloomsbury, $16.95 (9781599900568).

Gr. 8–11. Handsome 16-year-old Silvano admires Angelica, a local merchant’s wife, from afar, but when Angelica’s husband is murdered, he becomes the prime suspect. Silvano takes refuge in a friary, where he finds himself attracted to a novice from the adjoining abbey. When a series of mysterious deaths puts Silvano under greater suspicion, he resolves to find the murderer.

First Shot. By Walter Sorrells. 2007. 288p. Dutton, $16.99 (9780525478010).

Gr. 7–12. In this fast-paced novel, David Crandall is in the midst of a Dickensian drama: his mother was murdered, and his father, the head of the boarding school that David attends, abuses David emotionally and physically. David’s growing suspicion that his father murdered his mother makes this a page-turner.

Hannah West on Millionaire’s Row. By Linda Johns. 2007. 160p. Puffin/Sleuth, paper, $6.99 (9780142408247).

Gr. 5–8. Hannah and her mother house-sit professionally, and in this installment of the Hannah West series, they find themselves living in a mansion on historic Millionaire’s Row in Seattle. When strange break-ins occur on the street, Hannah uses her knowledge of Eastern culture and some research in the Seattle library to crack the case.

A Samurai Never Fears Death. By Dorothy Hoobler and Thomas Hoobler. 2007. 176p. Philomel/Sleuth, $14.99 (9780399246098).

Gr. 5–8. In this sequel to
The Ghost in the Tokaido Inn (Philomel, 1999), Seikei, the 16-year-old adopted son of a great samurai, finds himself immersed in several mysteries, including suspicious after-hours deliveries to his family’s tea shop. In addition to the mysteries, the story is filled with historical information about eighteenth-century Japan.

Skullduggery. By Pete Hautman and Mary Logue. 2007. 176p. Putnam/Sleuth, $16.99 (9780399243783).

Gr. 6–9. Roni and Brian, who honed their detective skills in
Snatched (Putnam/Sleuth, 2006), the first of the Bloodwater Mysteries, climb a bluff on a field trip and discover a dazed archaeologist, the victim of a blow to the head. Before passing out, the man hands Brian a Stone Age tool and mysteriously orders him to save the bluff. The plot twists and turns as the duo try to unravel the mystery despite the very real dangers around them.

Something Rotten: A Horatio Wilkes Mystery. By Alan M. Gratz. 2007. 208p. Dial, $16.99 (9780803732162).

Gr. 8–12. In this homage to Shakespeare’s Hamlet, something is rotten in the town of Denmark, Tennessee, beginning with the paper mill that is polluting the Copenhagen River. After Hamilton Prince’s father, the owner of the paper mill, is mysteriously murdered, Hamilton’s mother marries his uncle. Horatio, Hamilton’s best friend, must solve the case before anyone else dies.

Tamar: A Novel of Espionage, Passion, and Betrayal. By Mal Peet. 2007. 432p. Candlewick, $17.99 (9780763634889).

Gr. 8–12. After her grandfather’s suicide, Tamar opens a box of World War II memorabilia left to her and uses the items to discover secrets of intrigue and espionage. Parallel stories shift between war-era Holland and England in 1995.

Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos. By R. L. LaFevers. Illus. by Yoko Tanaka. 2007. 368p. Houghton, $16 (9780618756384).

Gr. 5–8. Theodosia’s mum, an archaeologist, has recently returned from Egypt with a sacred amulet. When the artifact disappears, Theodosia stumbles into a terrifying battle between international secret societies. Readers interested in archaeology will be drawn to the story’s questions about the ownership and responsible treatment of ancient artifacts.

Informational Titles

Crime Solvers series. Bearport. Individual titles, 32p., $25.27.

Gr. 5–8. Each title in this series spotlights a real-life crime, its investigation, and the forensic techniques used to solve the case. Series titles include
Cold Case File: Murder in the Mountains by Olivia Gordon, Robbery File: The Museum Heist by Amanda Howard, and
Murder File: A Killer’s Manual by Edward Nicholson, and each book contains a glossary, index, and brief bibliography.

The DNA Gave It Away! Teens Solve Crime. By Yvonne Morrison. March 2008. 36p. Children’s Press, $25 (9780531175811); paper, $6.95 (9780531188422).

Gr. 4–6. In this Shockwave Science title, readers learn about the various methods forensic experts use to solve crimes, including collecting DNA, fingerprints, and fiber samples. Photos and sidebars accompany chapters on gathering clues at the scene of a crime and how forensic scientists evaluate evidence. A brief overview of forensic careers, a glossary, and a bibliography conclude the book.

Forensic Science Projects with a Crime Lab You Can Build. By Robert Gardner. 2007. 128p. Enslow, $31.93 (9780766028067).

Gr. 5–8. This entry in the Build-a-Lab! Science Experiments series instructs readers on how to collect evidence—including fingerprints, fibers, and pieces of glass—and build their own forensic labs. Many ideas for science fair projects are included, and an index, bibliography, and list of science supply companies round out the book.

Gut-Eating Bugs: Maggots Reveal the Time of Death! By Danielle Denega. 2007. 64p. Franklin Watts, $25 (9780531118245).

Gr. 6–9. Despite the high gross-out factor, Denega’s text clearly explains how forensic entomologists use insects to determine the time of death. Like other titles in the 24/7: Science behind the Scenes series, this book presents true cases that challenge readers to use science as an investigative tool.

Seventeen Real Girls, Real-Life Stories: True Crime. By the Editors of
Seventeen Magazine. 2007. 128p. Hearst, paper, $4.95 (9781588166487).

Gr. 10–12. These true crime stories, taken straight from the tabloids, make for gritty and often shocking reading. Not for the faint-of-heart, these cases will appeal to true crime fans and may encourage teens to think about their own safety.

For more recommended mysteries, see
“Case Closed” in the January 2007 issue of
Book Links.

Video Connection

The Ruby in the Smoke. 2007. WGBH Boston. 1 DVD (1½ hrs.), $19.95 (9781593757250).

Gr. 5–up. This cinematic adaptation of the first book in Philip Pullman’s Sally Lockhart trilogy provides suspense and outstanding sleuthing. Set in Victorian London, the film was produced for
Masterpiece Theater, and it offers an excellent way to present the story to a wider audience and attract new readers to the series.

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

This article appears in the January 2008 issue of Book Links