One of my MFA cohorts just published her debut novel, and of course, I had to buy it. Pepper’s Rules for Secret Sleuthing is a middle-grade story about our hero, Pepper, who’s gone with her father to help settle the estate of a late family relative. However, when they get there, Pepper notices some strange behavior from her own aunt and a few facts that don’t seem to add up. With the help of a neighborhood boy and unexpected assistance from her cousin, Pepper tries to solve the mystery of what exactly is going on at the big mansion in Maine.
For full disclosure, I’m not a middle-grade reader, and I’m really not a fan of murder mysteries, but even so, I found myself compulsively flipping the pages to figure out the whodunnit, which considering I’m not the intended audience was pretty fantastic. The end is satisfying, the clues along the way are compelling, and the whole mystery of the thing keeps you reading. This book is also very inclusive, with LGTBQ+ characters abounding. The book isn’t specifically centered on LGBTQ issues, but it masterfully encapsulates these characters’ experiences as they’re moving into adolescence in a natural way that never feels shoehorned or takes away from the plot.
While I had personal issues suspending my disbelief about the antics the kids in this story get up to and a few of the details, I also realize this book is written for kids, whose imaginations are much more active and elastic than mine, so while it was a 3 star book for me, personally, I think it would be a 4 star book for its intended audience. I would highly recommend it for middle grade readers who love mysteries.
3 stars for me, but 4 stars for kids.
Bingo Square: Reader’s Choice (replacing Roaring 20s)
2nd Bingo: Across -Red, How-To, Uncannon, Reader’s Choice (roaring 20s), Music