Reviews and Recommendations by Mel Odom, Professional Writer

SLEUTH OR DARE by Kim Harrington

Sleuth or Dare is the first novel of a new middle grader mystery series featuring two young girl protagonists. Norah and Darcy are two best friends, but they couldn’t be more different. Norah tells the story in this first book, and she’s bookish and into all things astronomy. Darcy is deliberately different, a free spirit in clothing and attitude, and a dedicated armchair detective and cyber nerd.

They set up a detective agency as a school project, one of those make-believe businesses that get assigned in different classes to make kids think. Norah wants something different, but not wildly so. However, before she knows it, she gets sucked into Darcy’s fantasy world and they establish a detective agency (Partners in Crime), complete with an on-line web presence.

Shortly after their debut during class, they get their first email. A mysterious person wants the duo to find her missing twin sister.

As an adult reader, I love traipsing through kids’ books. Given the fact that sales of kids’ books are way up these days (showing more of an increase than adult books), I feel confident in the knowledge that I’m not the only dedicated reader who pines for the good old days of curling up with a crackerjack story peopled with fun characters.

Kim Harrington’s first person narrative throughout the book is fun and breezy, never taking itself too seriously. There is plenty of crushing, nervousness, and near-social disasters to keep the younger crowd happy, but it doesn’t get in the way of older readers either.

The mystery is plenty of fun, and Harrington keeps the reader on his toes because there are a lot of things going on in this book to keep the pot stirred. There are plenty of characters on stage in this one that I feel certain will be back again and again throughout the series. Looking to see more of them, and I’m curious about what Zane is really doing. That’s one mystery that didn’t get resolved in this book.

However, I was surprised at how adult the actual mystery turned out to be. I put it all together well before the final reveal, but I thought it was an ambitious plot with fairly placed clues.

As someone who grew up on Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boy, I’m always going to read mysteries about young sleuths. Norah and Darcy are an enchanting pair and I’m already looking forward to the next two volumes, both of which will be released in subsequent months over the summer.

This is definitely a book for that young detective in your household, and a great book to purchase for a school library.

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