I love getting recommendations from other writers. In this case, Krista Van Dolzer saw one of my MMGM tweets and said I should cover THREE TIMES LUCKY by Sheila Turnage. I immediately requested it from the library, and it was waiting for me when I returned from the cruise. (Krista also did a review. Go here to read it.)
Here’s the blurb from the jacket:
Meet Miss Moses LoBeau–rising sixth grader, natural born detective, borderline straight-A student, and goddess of free enterprise. Mo washed ashore in Tupelo Landing, North Carolina, eleven years ago during one of the meanest hurricanes in history, and she’s been making waves ever since.
Mo’s summer is looking good. She’ll take karate with her best friend, Dale Earnhardt Johnson III (whose daddy believes in naming for the famous), and plot against her sworn enemy, Anna Celeste (aka Attila). She’ll help out at the cafe run by the Colonel and Miss Lana, and continue her lifelong search for her Upstream Mother.
But when the cafe’s crankiest customer turns up dead and a city-slick lawman shows up asking questions, Mo’s summer takes an unexpected turn. With another hurricane beating down on Tupelo Landing, Mo and Dale set out to save those they love and solve a mystery of epic proportion.
Here are five things I loved:
1. The mystery – I’m a sucker for a good mystery, especially one that I can’t figure out. Sheila Turnage delivers in that respect. I had a lot of theories, but I didn’t come up with the final answer before it was revealed. And I loved that there was an ironic twist for one character.
2. The voice – If you clicked on Krista’s post, you already know this book is full of voice. Mo’s spunky, southern forthrightness makes her stand out among the other characters but also among other middle grade heroines. The following example is how she tells her best friend’s mother that her oldest son – Mo’s future husband, as she says – was in an accident.
“Miss Rose, I hate to mention it, but your firstborn’s crashed headfirst into a cement wall at maybe a hundred miles an hour, which we can all be grateful hard-headedness runs in your family. He’s outside right now hoping his daddy will let him in without any nastiness, and we’re hoping he don’t get medically no worse, because Doc Aikin says if he goes concussion, we got to rush him to the hospital. Dale and me are Doctor Appointed in this,” I concluded.
3. The townspeople – From Grandmother Miss Lacy Thornton to the mayor, the townspeople are so well characterized. One of my favorite scenes was when the mayor confirmed Mr. Jesse was dead.
At quarter past nine, Mayor Little burst through the door, glistening and out of breath. We froze.
“Everyone settle down,” he gasped, fanning his red face with both hands. “Don’t panic. Detective Starr has things well in hand. The man is a God-send. Stay calm, and have faith in your civil servants. We’ll get past this little speed bump in no time.”
Attila Celeste raised her hand. “I don’t think it’s fair to call Mr. Jesse a speed bump just because he’s dead,” she said. “It’s not like he can defend himself.”
For a brief instant, I almost liked her.
The mayor zigzagged by, holding his tie to keep it from brushing our sweaty arms.
“Is it true, then, Mayor?” Grandmother Miss Lacy Thornton warbled from the end of the counter. “Is Jesse Tatum officially dead?”
“Dead is such an unflattering term,” he said, sliding onto a stool. “I prefer to think of Jesse as … passe.”
The Azalea Women gasped.
“What’s passe mean?” Tinks Williams asked the Colonel, his voice low.
“Dead,” the Colonel said, refilling Tinks’s iced tea.
4. Family – An ongoing plot point is Mo’s search for her Upstream Mother – the mother who strapped her to a piece of wood during a hurricane. I won’t tell you whether she finds her or not, but I enjoyed the way the story focused on family and what it means. Mo learns the true meaning of family not only from her own situation, but also from watching her best friend, Dale, and her arch enemy, Anna Celeste.
5. The Desperado Detective Agency and the Cousin Information Network – Kids believe they can do anything, and that shines through in this book. Mo and Dale set up their own detective agency to solve Mr. Jesse’s death and call on a fellow student’s Pre-Law Office to gather information from the Cousin Information Network. They accomplish a lot by calling on their relatives for confidential information. Who needs trained law enforcement?
I’m still testing whether reading this book might make you three times lucky, supported by the fact I’ve won two books in blog contests this week. Why don’t you try it and let me know if it brings you luck? Lucky or not, this book is a treat.
For querying writers, Sheila Turnage is represented by Melissa Jeglinski of The Knight Agency.