Two mystery series with teen appeal added installments this year.
The Spellmans Strike Again is the fourth in Lisa Lutz’s hilarious series. The Spellman Files (2007) won an Alex Award, and was followed by Curse of the Spellmans (2008) and Revenge of the Spellmans (2009).
If you haven’t seen them, check out the great mass market paperback covers:
Perhaps worth refreshing your collection. The Revenge of the Spellmans mass market will be available in January 2011.
Next, Alan Bradley’s second terribly clever Flavia de Luce mystery is here, following 2009’s Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (Delacorte), which won the Agatha Award, the Arthur Ellis Award, and the Macavity Award, all for Best First Novel. The third, A Red Herring without Mustard, will be released in February.
Adult/High School–Isabel Spellman, narrator of the fourth installment in the series, practically defines the phrase “arrested development.” Chronically self-centered and sarcastic, Isabel is a 33-year-old private investigator who spends much more time interfering in her family members’ personal lives and in search of her next drink than actually working any cases in the family business. Good thing too because it’s the secondary characters who truly give this story life—particularly her genius teenage sister, Rae, and Isabel’s long-suffering love interest, Henry. Brief appearances by Rae’s new boyfriend add a welcome sane voice to the Spellman bedlam. Several issues occupy Isabel’s time: a desire to find dirt on rival investigator Harkey, avoiding her mother’s blackmail scheme to participate in lawyer dates once a week, and discovering why hardware (doorknobs, towel racks) keeps disappearing from her parents’ house. None of these problems is particularly important, and interest in an actual mystery takes a backseat to Isabel’s juvenile tendencies. Teens will read this for the humorous footnotes throughout, the snarky one-line zingers, and Rae’s clever machinations. They will particularly enjoy transcripts of the recorded conversations Isabel conducts with every character, the funniest bits in the book. A movie based on the Alex Award-winning first installment in the series, The Spellman Files (S & S, 2007), is currently in development.–Priscille Dando, Robert E. Lee High School, Fairfax County, VA
Adult/High School–Flavia de Luce, the plucky 11 year-old heroine introduced in the critically acclaimed Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (Delacorte, 2009), solves another murder in her 1950’s English hamlet. Passionate about chemistry (more specifically poison), Flavia is funny, audacious, and courageous and follows the twists and turns of events with great aplomb. A traveling puppeteer arrives in town and becomes part of a cast of mysteriously intertwined characters. A farmer who has a hidden cannabis field, a former German POW who works on his farm, and the womanizing puppeteer who ends up dead have past connections that keep readers engaged. While attempting to solve the mystery of the puppeteer’s death, Flavia realizes that the long-ago death of a village child also needs to be solved. What does Mad Meg really know about it? How is the former German POW involved? Are the vicar and his wife connected to the deaths? Bradley keeps Flavia a few steps ahead of readers (often riding through the countryside on her trusty bike, Gladys) and her “choice nuggets of deduction” are extraordinary. Readers who enjoy a thoughtfully crafted mystery, a large cast of eccentric characters, remarkable vocabulary, and a step back in time will surely find much to admire in this book.–Jane Ritter, Mill Valley School District, CA