One-Hit Wonder

by Lisa Jewell

I wanted to give Lisa Jewell another try after the first book I read by her. Like the previous novel, I was intrigued by the concept behind this one.

Ana, a bonafide card-carrying ugly duckling is 25 years old. She is repressed and bullied by everyone around her, especially her abusive psycho mother. She thinks she is ugly because she is tall, thin, and has a big nose. Her beautiful and dynamic half-sister, whom she barely knew, has died suddenly and she must go to New York to put her affairs in order. Bee was a wild child and ex-pop star whose celebrity faded quickly. A One-Hit wonder in fact.

When Ana gets to New York she is saddened and disturbed to see how Bee lived and died. She falls in with her two best and apparently only friends, Lol and Flint. Together, they are determined to get to the bottom of what happened to Bee. It is soon apparent that Bee had been living a double life with many secrets. In the course of her investigations, and away from her mother, Ana blossoms into a swan, finds inner strength, confidence, and self-esteem, and falls in love. By the end, there is plenty of redemption, happiness, and hope for the future for our main character, Ana, and others we meet along the way. But the happiness and hope that is found are in the ashes of Bee’s tragedy.

I liked Ana but didn’t love her. She was kind and good. I guess I can’t blame her for being a doormat to her mother and others, because the primary focus of the book is how she gets herself up off the floor. However, her constant poormouthing herself and failing to see her striking beauty that is obvious to everyone else was irritating. I listened to this on audio, and I liked the reader’s characterizations of everyone except two other main characters: Lol (short for Lolita, we are finally told) and Flint. The accent and voice tone was over the top with these two, and actually gave me a bad impression of them throughout most of the book. Flint’s character really turned me off and his voice just exacerbated my initial dislike. I just didn’t see how he could be the love interest but there wasn’t anyone else. As the book went on, and we learn more about him, my feelings did change, but it was slow going.

The gradual solving of the mystery and anticipation of closure on several fronts were what kept me going with this one. There were some interesting characters, particularly the difficult mystery boy and the cruel neurotic mother. The final outcomes with these two came too easily and were too pat for me.  As welcome as they were. The author had to put a pin in an ugly problem looming on the horizon to get to a satisfactory conclusion. Not that I didn’t appreciate it.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

May 19, 2022

Discovery at the Dragon’s Mouth (Judy Bolton # 31)

Great galloping goldfish! Wait until the chief hears that it was you who smelled out these–” “the word is birds,” Judy put in quickly.

-Peter to Judy after the bad guys have been captured-

Judy and Peter are going to Washington so Peter can take a required refresher course for his career with the FBI and they have rented out their farmhouse to a couple taking care of their nephew. We learn that little Kevin was abandoned by his parents and that his father is wanted for questioning about a bank robbery in Rapid City, South Dakota.

Peter and Judy’s plans fall through and since her house has been let out, Judy and Honey decide to take a vacation together. To make a long story short, they end up going to Yellowstone National Park to return a package to the “perfectly stunning young man” who gave it to Judy by mistake. We follow Judy across the United States in order to get to “The Dragon’s Mouth” an attraction in Yellowstone National Park where Mr. Nogard was headed. Despite Honey’s crush on him, the reader senses that not all is on the up and up with the “dreamy” Mr. Nogard especially when Judy realized that “Nogard” is “Dragon” spelled backward.

I enjoyed this one. I liked the trip to Niagra Falls, Canada, and across my old home state of Michigan to get to Muskegon to take a ferry across to Wisconsin and on to Yellowstone. Along the way, they get lost driving around Mount Rushmore and things get pretty tense. But not half as tense as things get once they get to Yellowstone. The mysterious package gets stolen by a bear and Honey disappears. Judy sticks her foot in a hot spring and sprains her ankle and gets burned. They both end up captured by part of a bank-robbing gang (the Dragons) and Judy’s car is stolen. Judy gets knocked out cold by a window shade breaking a window to escape. Meanwhile, Peter is alerted by something Judy said in a postcard that she is unknowingly on the trail of the same bank robbers the FBI is after, and he hotfoots it to the park to meet her.

The last chapter is very satisfying as every little loose end is tied up and explained credibly. Except for a bit about static electricity which I won’t go into but believe me is batshit crazy. A very sweet and clever touch was the explanation of why Kevin’s dad asked him to put a candy heart inside his toy stuffed bear. Kevin’s parents turn out to be victims of the gang and he was not abandoned but left in a cabin to keep him safe. It turns out Judy’s ankle was infected and she had a fever during the final chapters which is a bit of a relief to know because she was a bit slow on the uptake near the end of the adventure. Honey learns that “Handsome is as handsome does”, and is happily reunited with Horace. Honey showed a lot of gumption throughout this mystery and adventure. She was an equal partner to Judy and even took the lead at least once.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

April 16, 2022

The Homewreckers

By Mary Kay Andrews

“They stood in a small semicircle, facing the Creedmore house. “Jesus, Mary, and Fred,” Tug exclaimed, wiping his sweaty brow with a handkerchief. “Hattie, what have gotten us into?”

I’ve finally read a Mary Kay Andrews book! Yay! I’ve seen her name many a time, and a former co-worker highly recommended her, but I just couldn’t decide which one to start with so I just kept putting it off. When this one came up on NetGalley, it seemed like a sign.

Hattie is a young widow who works with her father-in-law flipping houses. When we first meet her she is struggling to renovate a house in Savannah, her hometown, but it is a disaster and she ends up selling it at a loss. Eager to atone for her bad judgment in buying the house, she jumps on the opportunity of a lifetime to bid on a condemned beach house in foreclosure on nearby Tybee Island. Meanwhile, she has been discovered by a producer for an HGTV or Magnolia type media company who wants to feature her “Saving Savannah” reclaiming and renovating historic houses. Her decrepit beach house is perfect for the show. She is the successful bidder and gets it for a small fraction of the worth of the lot alone.

We follow the likable heroine as she deals with the jealous hostile former owners, the officious local building inspector, falling trees, fire, possible sabotage, a vain male diva of a co-lead, his fan-girls, constantly shrinking impossible deadlines, a tyrant of a network boss, hair, make-up, and wardrobe, and oh yes, that producer.

Everything bubbles along (Ms. Andrews is a talented storyteller) when a dead body is discovered in the property’s septic tank. And not a moment too soon, because the ante needed upping just a bit. From there, we learn about the victim, her family, some shocking history, many secrets, and meet the almost retired detective who investigates the 17-year-old murder with Hattie’s help.

A few things bothered me. Hattie loses all of her savings on her failed project because she didn’t get the house inspected first. Then she signs a contract with the network without a lawyer looking over it. It did not give me a good first impression of an essentially admirable character. Not to mention the guy she is initially attracted to doesn’t speak well for her taste or judgment either. There were other inconsistencies in the character building of two “baddies” as well and the timeline in a chain of events at the end, but it did not distract too much. The main thing, though, was this: Hattie wins the condemned property with a less than $30,000 bid. We are told the lot alone is worth at least half a million dollars. Yet the former owner offers her only $50,000 to get it back, and her rich father-in-law is appalled she spent $30,000 on it and wants her to sell it back to him “for a handsome profit.” What? I kept thinking “What am I missing? Is it me?”**Spoiler**She ends up selling it for almost a million, and should and would have probably gotten more if not for that pesky murder. **End Spoiler**

The ending was a little abrupt. I would have liked more closure for her love life, her pawned engagement ring, the victim’s family, her relationship with her father, and the outcome of the TV show we invested so much time in filming. I enjoyed the whodunit aspect, though once you rule out the obvious suspects, it could have only been one person.

My picky faultfinding aside, Homewreckers is a light fun read. It is mostly a mystery with a splash of chick-lit, and of course a bit of a romance. It doesn’t go very deep, and nothing truly upsetting or emotional happens, and that’s OK. Ms. Andrews keeps things moving with both the mystery and putting us behind the scenes of a challenging home renovation. Some nice entertaining banter, a lot of action and crises, southern charm, and lots of characters we are given good reason to root both for and against made this an enjoyable read. And one more thing. I liked that the chapters had titles. The first chapter, where the president and producer of the media company, Mo, meets Hattie by falling through the rotting floor on top of her is called “Do-Drop-In”. Definitely chuckled. I will certainly keep Mary Kay Andrews at the front of my back burner of TBRs in the future. **3 1/2 stars**

Thank-You to Net Galley and St. Martins Press for providing me with an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

April 10, 2022

The Phantom Friend (Judy Bolton #30)

By Margaret Sutton

“Oh dear! wailed Clarissa. “I look terrible. My hair is dull. My hair is drab….”

“Turn her off, somebody!” Pauline interrupted. “We’ve heard that record before.”

It kills me to give a Judy Bolton book less than 3 stars but this one was not only flawed but “dull and drab.” Sorry! Judy is still in New York with Irene after their last adventure sorting out the scary Lake family and they have been joined by their friend Pauline Faulkner and another girl at Radio City Music Hall. They are going to tour a TV studio and watch Irene’s local variety show which seems to owe a lot to the old Shirley Temple’s Storybook TV series. They meet the naive and tiresome Clarissa Valentine, an aspiring actress from West Virginia, who wants to return home after not making it in New York City. Her money for her ticket is stolen by a cashier and the girls give her money to go back home. When she disappears from the group during the show, it is suspected that it was all a big scam to get their money. During the tour of the TV studio, the girls are victimized by Subliminal Advertising, and the reader is victimized by a never-ending diatribe on its dangers. Judy and Clarissa constantly bewail their dull and drab hair and can’t stop thinking about Golden Hair Wash. Somehow, a con man who specializes in kidnapping people and scamming churches out of their money gets involved in the story. Clarissa gets kidnapped because she is mistaken for a famous guest actress on Irene’s show and the actress ends up in the hospital and Peter gets shot. It’s all a big muddle and doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Especially when Clarissa with her kidnappers posing as her mother and father end up at a surprise party in Judy’s house in Dry Brook Hollow. I might have been generous and given it 3 stars but Judy’s out of character swanning around as if in a trance talking about her nightmares and her dull and drab hair just got on my last nerve. Pauline Faulkner with her cynical outlook and sarcastic remarks was my favorite character in this one.

According to her daughter, Lindsey Stroh, Margaret used Vance Packard’s milestone book, The Hidden Persuaders as research, and apparently it really got to her. She wasn’t alone as subliminal advertising and mind control concerned a lot of people in the 50s and 60s. But it is called “as dangerous as an atom bomb” several times which is way over the top. Judy and Clarissa’s overreaction to the commercial for Golden Hair Wash which contained subliminal tactics overshadowed the mystery and adventure and even Peter ending up in the hospital (again) and in trouble with his boss. Unlike much of her laudable social commentary, it is not subtle and not integrated smoothly into the plot. It’s as if Margaret felt compelled to warn her young readers about mind control, but by the time she got back to writing a Judy Bolton story, it was too late.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

February 27, 2022

Cut, Color, Murder

Dye, Die, Don’t Bother

I don’t have a bad word to say about the actors in this new Hallmark mystery series. Gonzalo and McPartlin were just fine, and they had a good rapport. But boy oh boy was it dumb. This is a new entry in Hallmark’s spunky female amateur detective line. They usually run their own “womanly” business so they can take off whenever one of their acquaintances or customers gets murdered in order to catch the killer. We have flower shops, bookstores, antique stores, and bakeries. We also have matchmakers(!?), wedding photographers, crossword puzzle editors, and podcast hosts. Strangely, in two of my favorites, Aurora Teagarden and Mystery 101, the spunky female amateur detectives actually have mainstream professions. With the arrival of Cut, Color, Murder, we now have beauty shop owner. What took them so long?

In this one, Julie is taking her talents to the world of beauty pageants in which her younger sister is a participant and she is doing hair. The bitchy showrunner gets murdered and there are plenty of suspects because she was evil to absolutely everyone. Julie is the widow of a policeman who was killed in the line of duty (or was it unsolved cold-blooded murder?). So she has ties to the police department primarily through the chief of police who she has wrapped around her little finger. Enter new guy, Ryan McPartlin, a handsome hotshot detective with whom she butts heads because he is a professional. After Julie meets an anonymous text-messager alone in a spooky abandoned house at night because he/she has info about her husband, it was remote throwing time. Except I had to find it first because I had already throw

n it after all the laws she broke and chain of evidence procedures ignored in the meantime.  She is rescued from certain death by Ryan and let’s just say this show leaves no cliche unincluded.

We know this is a series because after the mystery is solved we have a bit of a cliffhanger while Julie is having a pow-wow with her dead husband at the cemetery because she has decided to move on (is that something you just decide to do?) and wants to give him a heads up ( I guess?). We know that there is going to be an over-arching mystery of her trying to solve her husband’s murder and getting into all kinds of trouble. Not a spoiler, because I’m not psychic, but I predict that the murderer of her husband turns out to be the indulgent good-guy/father-figure/police chief in an unknown number of episodes hence.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

February 9, 2022

Mr. Mercedes

by Stephen King

“Everybody likes the ice cream man.”

“The woman says her name is Holly Gibney, but I think she’s really Sheena, Queen of the Jungle.”

“It’s as if there’s a fumble-fingered but powerful universal force at work, always trying to put wrong things right.”

One of the reasons I wanted to read Mr. Mercedes was because I heard tell of Holly Gibney, who is introduced in this book and is a character in several others of King’s works.

“I just love Holly, and I wish she were a real person. […] She just walked on in the first book she was in, Mr. Mercedes, and she more or less stole the book, and she stole my heart.”

-Stephen King

I was further encouraged because it won the Edgar Award for best novel of 2015. Unfortunately, Holly doesn’t make an appearance until halfway through, and I liked her, but I was a little underwhelmed considering the hype, including the miniseries which features her character. Just a little. I don’t think SK knew what he had with Holly Gibney until the book was almost finished. I look forward to seeing more of Holly. This was a good introduction and there is a lot of promise there. (I’m sure the great Mr. King will be relieved I think so) But I also hope Jerome and his family are in other related books because I loved them right from the get-go.

Mr. Mercedes is about the cat and mouse game between a twisted evil young man and a broken-down retired detective. The young man is Brady Hartsfield who has already committed mass murder by mowing down a group of innocents with a borrowed Mercedes.

“Most people are fitted with Lead Boots when they are just little kids and have to wear them all their lives. These Lead Boots are called A CONSCIENCE. I have none, so I can soar high above the heads of the Normal Crowd.”

The old before his time “ret-det”, Bill Hodges, is so done with life that he is flirting with suicide.

“What he knows now is that guilt isn’t the only reason people commit suicide. Sometimes you can just get bored with afternoon TV.”

Brady has already driven one innocent woman connected with his heinous act to suicide and now he is targeting Bill Hodges, who was the head investigator in the murder and failed to catch him before his retirement. But Bill is wily.

Once Brady makes contact with Bill, it gives him the purpose he needed to keep living. He starts to re-investigate. Thanks to the puzzle, what he learns along the way, and a lovely woman he meets in the course of his search, he is rejuvenated. When he learns that Mr. Mercedes had a role in the death of the woman who owned the car, whom he and his partner had wrongly accused of negligence, it ups the ante. When Mr. Mercedes victimizes someone closely connected to Bill, it gets personal. Along with his young friend Jerome and the neurotic emotionally disturbed Holly, his junior detectives, he is hot on Mr. Mercedes’s trail. But will they catch him before he can commit an atrocity that will make his first mass murder look like just a prelude to the main event? I loved that the car comes full circle from a force for evil to a force for good. It just depends on who’s doing the driving.

Most of the book is told from Bill Hodges’s point of view. But it was necessary to tell some of it from Brady Hartsfield’s as well. What we learn about him and his thoughts are so gross and disgusting, it actually took away from my enjoyment of the book. Every time we had to go there, I had to force myself not to skip through those parts. But don’t worry, the dog is not harmed.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

January 9, 2022

The Clue of the Broken Wing (Judy Bolton #29)

by Margaret Sutton

“I dozed off and didn’t wake up until I heard those police sirens.”
“Then what?,” asked Judy. “I don’t suppose you knew they were coming to arrest me?”
Peter grinned. “I should have known it. Past experience should have taught me that something was bound to happen. You enter a queer old house. The police arrive. You vanish. It all adds up.”

The cheer of the kitchen had vanished. Like the rest of the house, it was suddenly filled with ghosts. Their names were fear and suspicion and guilt. Prejudice was there, too, and panic that drives a person who runs away.

Like many of Margaret Sutton’s books, this one has some dark elements in it which reveal her social consciousness. Although those children reading it in the ‘50s or even today may not have picked up on these, an adult reading it today surely does.

A little girl, afraid of a temperamental and harsh mother’s punishment, runs away from her in a department store and is helped by a woman who finds her at a bus terminal. The little girl tells her she is alone in the world and the woman takes her with her while visiting her estranged mother who is neighbors with Judy Bolton. Her mother disapproved of the man she married, who is poor, and will not accept him. She tells her mother that “Anne” is her own little girl in hopes that when she dies (she has a terminal illness) her mother will not try to take her real daughter away from her husband and his mother. Anne is happy with her loving grandmother but still thinks of her real family and misses them.

The book picks up a year later with Judy and Peter traveling to New York City at Christmas time to visit her friend Irene, her husband Dale, and her daughter, little Judy. When they get to Irene’s address, they are surprised to find Irene’s house is razed to the ground and an apartment building in its place. She goes across the street while Peter, tired from his long drive, takes a nap, to find out what happened to Irene and her family. It is the home of the Lakes, the same family that lost little their little girl and believes, along with the police, that she is dead. They suspect that Judy is part of a gang that kidnapped their daughter “Sukey” for reasons I won’t go into here, and the adventure begins when the witch-like Mrs. Lake locks Judy in an upstairs room and calls the cops. Plus we have the mystery of what happened to Irene and her family. They soon find out that Irene and Dale moved out to Long Island and didn’t tell Judy and Peter because Irene wanted it to be a “surprise.” It was a surprise all right. Irene is a real dingbat among other things, but after we get past that bump in the road, she turns out to be a valuable partner to Judy while she tries to help the dysfunctional Lake family against their will.

While the ending results in a happy reunion between the Lakes and their girl, Mr. And Mrs. Lake’s behavior throughout the book has been alarming, to say the least. While their actions are smoothed over at the end, we can’t help but be concerned about their parenting skills and can only hope for the best as far as the fates of their younger children. (Polly, their oldest, seems to have escaped their negativity and is remarkably likable and well-adjusted.) Margaret does a good job balancing the bleakness of the Lakes with the cheerful Christmas celebrations at the Meredith’s new home. (when they finally find it.) Despite the loose ends, I think it’s one of her best. **4 1/2 stars**

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

January 8, 2022

Madam, Will You Talk?

Charity suffereth long and is kind.-1 Corinthians 13:4

“Where’s David?”
“Who’s Johnny?

This is the first published work of Mary Stewart, who is widely credited with inspiring what became a whole genre of fiction: Romantic Suspense. So I guess you could say that this is the book that started it all. Set in the early ’50s this first novel introduced readers to the evocative descriptions of exotic locales that she became so famous and appreciated for. To say the least, her heroines do not suffer from dreary lives. Mary’s exciting adventurous novels must have been a welcome respite from the gloom and hardships of post-war England.

It has been decades since I last read this story but there were a few things that I had never forgotten from the 4 or 5 times I read this previously. This time I listened to it on Audible read by famous actress Emilia Fox. A friendship blossoms between a young widowed English tourist and a haunted but charming young boy in France and his evident fear of his father. She is determined to protect him at all costs. I remembered the tense cat and mouse chase between Charity Selbourne, our heroine, and her very scary “enemy” through the countryside and towns of France. Charity sabotaging his car using a secret trick her late husband Johnny taught her in order to buy her some time to get away from him. The ghost of Johnny, who was a race car driver before he was killed on a mission over France during WWII, is present throughout the novel. The war looms large in this story. Johnny taught Charity how to handle fast powerful cars. That skill saves her life.

“When you let excitement in, Johnny would add, in a lecture-room sort of voice, fear will follow.”

That quote always stuck with me.

The episode that stood out for me more than any other was her car race to rescue her love and the boy David from the hands of their potential murderers. Her use of her considerable driving skills becomes a deadly weapon. Charity’s development from just a nice and very frightened young woman to a formidable adversary is just awe-inspiring.

I remembered how quickly and shockingly the love story flared when I first read it. With my modern sensibilities, It was a little troublesome how firmly trust and long-term commitment between the two were established. But I went with it. I guess it does happen like that sometimes. Two other things that were also difficult for me on this re-read were the constant smoking and the way that Charity was marginalized and kind of infantilized by the hero after her courage and heroics.

But after the darkness and fear, the closure, joy, and hope of the ending were so satisfactory.

“And so it ended, where it had begun, with the little Jewish painter whose death had been so late, but so amply avenged. And, ten days later, with The Boy David carefully boxed in the back of the Riley, my husband and I set our faces to the South, and the Isles of Gold.”

Rating: 5 out of 5.

January 7, 2021

The Maid

By Nita Prose

The Maid engaged my interest from page 1 and kept it. We have a murder mystery, many interesting characters, a bit of a love story, some surprising plot developments, and an interesting twist at the end, which I was waiting for and had kind of given up on. Let’s just say when I came to it I went scurrying back to the scene of the crime. But the star of the book is the character of Molly, who tells us her story in her unique voice. She has trouble interacting with people because she is “on the spectrum.” As she explains, “It’s as though everyone is playing an elaborate game with complex rules they all know, but I’m always playing for the first time.”

Molly is a maid at the prestigious Regency Grand Hotel. She is alone in the world, is in precarious financial straits, and, now that her beloved Gran has died, she is misunderstood by everyone in her small world except for one person. But Molly is very very good at what she does and loves her job. She likes that there is a rule book for conduct, which she follows to the letter. In addition, she is obsessed with cleanliness. She revels in turning her guest rooms “to a state of perfection.” Mr. Snow, who is her boss appreciates her outstanding work, and a regular guest at the hotel, Giselle Black, treats her with kindness. As does Mr. Preston, the doorman. Most everyone else either overlooks her, (because she’s just a maid), takes advantage of her, laughs at her, or treats her with contempt. As Molly tells us her story, we see her world as it is, and how Molly thinks it is. This dual perspective is the source of humor as well as poignancy.

We get to know and become invested in Molly and her narrow little world. She tells us almost right off the bat that, today, she found a guest dead in his bed. In time, we learn he was murdered and Molly becomes a suspect. As we learn why the eyes of the officer in charge, Detective Stark, have turned toward Molly, the reader becomes very worried if not horrified. At least, I was. I felt very protective of Molly and cared about her welfare. How will she navigate the dangerous position she finds herself in? To me, the book is divided into two halves. The first half is before she finds friends who believe her and support her. This half is tinged with tension, distress, and dread. In the second half, after she is rescued by her friends, we know everything is going to be all right. But even then, there is lots more to go in the book. We still have a murder mystery to be solved, a criminal to catch, justice to be served, lessons to be learned, a love story to develop, and a future to be mapped out. We even have a surprising courtroom scene. By the end of the book, Molly has emerged as a force to be reckoned with. We are not worried about her anymore. Molly can take care of herself.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

November 29, 2021

Thank-You to Net Galley and Ballentine Books for providing me with an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.

The Haunted Fountain (Judy Bolton #28)

By Margaret Sutton

“This can’t be happening to me,” she thought. Never, in her whole life, had she felt so alone and helpless. She felt it was her own fault, too, for not calling Peter and telling him where she was going. But wouldn’t Honey tell him? She knew, and so did her father. Didn’t anyone care?…“They can’t let me just lie here and die,” thought Judy. She had never thought very much about dying. She had always felt so vibrantly alive. But now, suddenly, it seemed possible.

This book has it all! Judy, Lois, and Lorraine go to visit a fountain that Judy remembers from her childhood that seemed to talk to her. Lorraine reveals that she no longer trusts her husband, Arthur, and seems very upset. But she will not open up to Judy or Lois. Judy finds a diamond in the fountain and meets some intimidating shady characters. She enlists Horace to go back with her to the fountain to investigate and they end up getting trapped under it when someone turns the water on. Also under the fountain is a dying man, parolee Dick Hartwell, who discloses that he was coerced by a gang to forge important men’s signatures on incriminating documents for blackmail purposes. Because of leaky pipes, the room they are in starts to fill with water, and Judy and Horace realize that unless they escape, they will drown.

What follows is Judy’s very exciting and tense escape from the deadly fountain, her race to save Horace and Dick from drowning, a terrifying confrontation with hardened criminals (Judy gets slapped!), Judy’s despair when she thinks her brother is dead, a very romantic reunion with Peter, and ensuring the true criminals are brought to justice (remember the Vine gang from The Haunted Attic?. In addition to the action-packed adventure, we also have the marital drama of Lorraine and Arthur and their unhappiness with each other. Will they be reconciled?

By the end, Judy and Horace wind up in the hospital, and Blackberry, Judy’s cat, is awarded a medal for bravery. All the loose ends are tied up, including the mystery of why the fountain talked to her when she was a young teen. This mystery is many loyal Judy Bolton fans’ favorite book in the series. It is not hard to understand why. Her physical courage is at the forefront here as well as very tender scenes with Peter, Horace, and her father. Lorraine and Arthur’s problems lend complexity. It is exciting but it has emotional depth as well. Once again, Margaret Sutton ventures into territory seldom seen in juvenile series of this type.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

November 26, 2021