Thursday, October 01, 2020

Pepper's Rules for Secret Sleuthing

McDonald, Briana. Pepper's Rules for Secret Sleuthing
September 29th 2020 by Simon Schuster Books for Young
ARC graciously provided by the author via Twitter contest!

Pepper and her father travel to her great-aunt Florence's house to help her Aunt Wendy settle the estate. Pepper's mother, a police detective, has passed away, and to honor her memory and feel close to her, Pepper has cultivated an interest in sleuthing, using her mother's Detective's Rulebook to guide her. Her father and aunt don't get along well, and her aunt is frazzled because of a recent divorce. Her cousin, Andrew, is not Pepper's favorite person. When Aunt Wendy says that Florence died of a heart attack, Pepper doesn't believe her. A chance meeting with a neighbor, Jacob Buckley, gives Pepper a chance to recruit someone to help her who knows the area well, and soon the two are uncovering secrets, following suspicious persons, and finding mystery pills hidden in the bathroom. Pepper is sure that her great-aunt was murdered, but will she and Jacob be able to prove it... and survive? 
Strengths: Aside from an excellent murder mystery, this had a lot of good characters. Jacob is transgender, and this is mentioned just enough to establish who he is, make Pepper aware of it, and then just have him involved in the mystery, which is a very positive portrayal. Pepper has a few instances of wondering about her crush on a classmate who is a girl and worrying about how this will affect her relationship with her father, and then also moving on with the bigger story. This is a great way to present characters so that all readers can see themselves in stories that are not about their gender or sexuality. I loved the big house, and all of Florence's keepsakes, and also really enjoyed the ending. Most importantly, this is a MURDER mystery, and gets pretty gritty when it comes to tracking down the murderers. This is exactly what my students request over and over again. Robin Stevens' Wells and Wong mysteries, Jocelyn's The Body Under the Piano (Aggie Morton, Mystery Queen #1)and Bunce's Myrtle Hardcastle mysteries has similar murders; Pepper's will be a bit more popular because it is set in modern times. 
Weaknesses: The cover made me think this would be a lighter, more humorous read, so I wish that had been different. Also, I will never be a fan of the dead parent trope, and Pepper's longing for her mother did distract me from the story several times. Just not necessary. In fact, it would have been more interesting if her mother were back home and Pepper consulted her. Her mother wouldn't believe it was really murder, of course!
What I really think: I will definitely purchase this for my bloodthirsty students who want a good murder mystery, but I wish the cover were more ominous. Readers who enjoyed Coop Knows the Scoop will find this to be the perfect blend of detecting. family problems, and murder!

Ms. Yingling

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