Monday, April 18, 2016

Friday Barnes, Girl Detective

I wasn't really sure what to expect when I picked up this book.  Quite frankly, I picked it up because I had a coupon for Barnes & Noble, I couldn't find any other new books, and the title described the lead character as a girl detective.  The tag line on the back reads: "Meet Friday Barnes! Student. Genius. Girl Detective." And, since I happen to enjoy reading that particular genre of books, I figured I'd give it a try.

At eleven years old, Friday Barnes (and yes, she realizes her name is a day of the week) is already in the seventh grade.  She is a girl genius - not by nature, but by self-determination.  Her parents are both scientists, and all of her siblings are their pride and joy.  Friday, on the other hand - well, she was an unexpected accident.  As the author describes her, "She was fairly small and dull-looking, with light brown hair and muddy brown eyes, and she had mastered the trick of finding the exact spot in a room with the least light, so that if she stood perfectly still nobody would notice she was there."  Thus, the reader gets the idea right off the bat that Friday is an outcast, a position she likes to be in.

That all changes when she uses the reward money she receives from solving a bank robbery to pay for a year at a prestigious private school.  She thinks she can fly under the radar, while at the same time being away from her parents and siblings.  But when she arrives at the school, she finds that she quickly becomes the center of attention, as she is mistaken by all of the rich, snobby, self-absorbed students as being the "scholarship" student of the year (that one student who attends the school each year on a scholarship, which automatically makes that student the brunt of everyone's negative treatment).  She does manage to make a friend in her roommate, who is also quite unusual in her own ways.

The author provides an over-all mystery involving a swamp yeti that is terrorizing the students; but, along the way, the author has Friday solving a number of smaller crimes, such as missing homework assignments, the alleged theft of the headmaster's clock, a low grade for a supposedly late report, as well as stolen desserts.

Friday's characterization is very much like Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory.  She is a genius, so she simply speaks the truth and makes keen observations without considering courtesy or decorum.  For example:

"So tell me, since you're the smarty-pants, what is going on down at the swamp?"

"I don't know!" said Friday.  She was surprised by the question.

"Really?  I thought you had the answers to everything," said the Headmaster.

"No," admitted Friday.  "It only seems that way because I do know a lot more than the average eleven-year-old.  I know a lot more than most adults as well."

The Headmaster sighed.  "But apparently you don't know when to keep quiet."

Having finished the book, I can say without question that I really enjoyed it.  The mystery itself was rather tame and definitely aimed for younger readers; however, Friday's personality and unfiltered comments, as well as her roommate, Melanie's quirkiness, are what really make the book the most fun.  There were several laugh-out-loud moments in the book.

Something readers should be warned out - the book does end on a cliffhanger (I won't spoil it for those who do want to read the book), so for those who read this on and enjoy it, you will be sucked into buying the next one so you can find out what happens.

The next book, Friday Barnes Under Suspicion, is scheduled to hit the shelves in August, so we'll see if R.A. Spratt can continue the fun into the second book.

RATING:  8 green felt pork-pie hats out of 10 for squeaky clean mysteries and fun that are safe for any reader.

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