Kittscher, Kristen. The Tiara on the Terrace
January 5th 2016 by HarperCollins
ARC from Young Adult Books Central
Sophie and Grace are minor celebrities in their California town of Luna Vista after they solved the crime of The Wig in the Window. This time, one of the organizers of the Sun Festival is found dead, the most likely cause being a blow to the head by a s'mores float. The girls feel that the police decide much too quickly that the death was a mere accident; they know better. When another organizer passes out, they feel that foul play must be the order of the day and start their investigation.The two, along with their friend Trista, manage to get picked as Sun Festival pages, and get to spend several days living in the former Ridley Root Beer mansion under the tutelage of Lauren Sparrow, who teachers them home to wave, walk, and eat meatball heroes without licking their fingers or messing up their lipstick. At first, they suspect the parade organizer, the quirky, Pooh Bear loving Barb Lund. Lund has sent angry e mails around and is known for her misplaced devotion to the event. All signs seem to point to her, and the girls feel they are closing in... until they realize that the real murderer is closer at hand that they could have suspected.
Fans of Beil's Red Blazer Girls or Runholdt's Lucas and Kari mysteries will find this "cozy" mystery series for middle grade readers vastly amusing. Not only is there actual murder (something for which many readers ask and few authors write), but there is girl drama, sleepovers and a bit of romance. Sophie, Grace and Trista find themselves sharing close quarters with the popular girls who usually give them a hard time, but come to find that most people are easier to deal with once you know them.
The details of a small town festival are lots of fun, and anyone who has ever worked on a parade float will appreciate all of the work that goes into the preparations for one. It seemed a bit unlikely that the pages and the court would have been moved into a mansion for the week, but since middle grade heroes need a parent-free environment in order to save the day, this was a vastly better alternative than killing their parents.
These books remind me vaguely of Lillian Jackson Braun's The Cat Who books, and are a perfect choice for the younger reader whose parents' shelves are filled with that series, Diana Mott Davidson's cooking mysteries or the works of Susan Wittig Albert.
To be perfect for middle grade readers, however, this could have been half the length. At almost 400 pages, this will be avoided by many of my readers.