Beil, Michael D. The Secret Cellar.
9 October 2012, Knopf
Sophie is back with her classmates, and once again, they are involved in a mystery. Sophie sees a fountain pen that she would like to get for her father at a local antiques shop. When it goes up for auction, the snotty owner of a local bookstore, Marcus Klinger, also bids for the pen, which is from the estate of a local music enthusiast, Curtis Dedmann. Dedmann was also fond of clue oriented scavenger hunts, and when Sophie uncovers a slip of paper with a riddle on it within the barrel of the pen, the Red Blazer Girls set off to unravel another mystery. They enlist their adult friends like Malcolm and their English teacher to help them obtain the antique books they need, and to try to get vital clues, like the walking stick, back from Marcus Klinger. Lots of other things are going on while the mystery is in progress-- the girls' favorite coffee shop, Perkatory, has closed, and there is a school play, but when they talk to the executor of Dedmann's will, they start to realize that Dedmann's house holds some mystery that they must figure out before the house is turned over to Klinger.
Strengths: Just like in The Ring of Rocamadour and The Vanishing Violin, this has an awesome sense of place, and a great, clue-oriented mystery. I may never uncover an elusive German spy in my bucolic, Midwestern neighborhood, but in New York City, I guess that is what people do. I love this series because it's fun and exotic, and the girls have such cool adults around to help them.
Weaknesses: I wish the main characters were boys. Just do. I simply adore Mr. Beil's writing, but I've had a hard time getting boys to pick up this series, and even Summer at Forsaken Lake, which I thought was awesome. I don't know exactly why, but I think that if Mr. Beil wrote a book with a boy main character and a tiny bit more action, it would be fabulous. I can always hope!