Finally, Something Mysterious kicks off a middle-grader mystery series set in Bellwood, a small town with more than its share of eccentrics.
Finally, Something Mysterious by Doug Cornett. Alfred A. Knopf, 2020, 242 pages.
Reading Level: Middle Grades, ages 10-12
Recommended for: ages 8-12
“Strange but boring” is how Paul Marconi would describe his hometown, Bellwood. Seen from above, the town is laid out in a shape resembling a bell and is surrounded by woods, so there’s that. And the biggest deal of the year is the Bellwood Bratwurst Bonanza, where amateur chefs try to outdo each other with creative sausage recipes. But still, days and seasons turn pretty much without incident until finally . . . something mysterious. Like, hundreds of yellow, clownishly-grinning rubber duckies that suddenly appear on Mr. Babbage’s front lawn. Mr. Babbage is Bellwood’s champion bratwurst cook-off winner, five years in a row. His neighbor Mr. Pocus happens to be judge of the contest (as well as everybody’s least-favorite 4th-grade teacher), and there’s no love lost between the two. Paul and his two friends Shank (a.k.a. Gloria) and Peephole (a.k.a Alexander) don’t just smell a mystery; they’re rolling in it. Finally!
This cheerful whodunit pulls out all the tropes: red herrings, buried clues, and random observances that turn out to mean something. There’s also plenty of humor sprinkled among the clues, and the three pals (who call themselves the One and Onlys because they’re all only children) come from intact families and stick up for each other through thick and thin. Secondary characters—especially the grownups—tend toward caricature, and one of them makes a sudden and less-than-believable character change, but it’s light entertainment with all the right plot twists.
Overall Rating: 3.75 (out of 5)
Worldview/moral value: 3.5Artistic/literary value: 4Consideration:
There are two misuses of God’s name, plus a reference to someone as a “butthead.” Could be worse, like a reference to the other end.Also at Redeemed Reader:
The Brixton Brothers, Truly Lovejoy, and Howard Wallace, P.I. are similar middle-grade series with likable protagonists and small-town mysteries. The long-enduring Encyclopedia Brown books are more like short-story puzzles than full-blown mysteries. Readers can test their clue-spotting prowess by finding the twist embedded in each story.We are participants in the Amazon LLC affiliate program; purchases you make through affiliate links like the one below may earn us a commission. Read more here.
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