Friday, May 27, 2016

The Curious Cat Spy Club, Book 3 - Kelsey the Spy

The CCSC is back with more mystery, more fun, and more drama than ever!  Linda Joy Singleton clearly takes great joy with children's mystery, and it is evident in her writing.  The characters and situations are believable, the dialogue (both internal and external) is natural, and the mysteries are definitely on par with the best of them.

Kesley the Spy, the third book in this series, takes its title and premise from Harriet the Spy, a children's book of days gone by (which, quite frankly, I don't see on the shelves at Barnes and Noble or Books-a-Million any more).  As readers of this series know, Kelsey keeps a notebook of secrets, where she writes down and keeps hidden the secrets that she discovers about her various friends, family, and schoolmates.  Kelsey likes to compare herself with Harriet, as she spies on people and keeps a notebook of the secrets she learns about them.  She never shares those secrets, not even with her best friends and fellow Curious Cat Spy Club members.  But all that could very well come crashing down on her when she accidentally takes the notebook to school and someone steals it!

While the focus mystery in this book is on the stolen book of secrets, as with any good children's series mystery, there are several subplots - such as where is Kelsey's brother running off to every day with that mysterious white box?  And what exactly is inside that white box?  And to whom does that grandfather clock in the CCSC Clubhouse really belong?  And why would an actor leave a century old Aldabra tortoise with the kids?  Under normal circumstances, the Club would be more than up for the challenge. But this time around, there are obstacles getting in their way.  Leo is determined to get his friend Frankie into the Club and spends more time with the theater props boy than he does with the Club.  Becca is faced with choosing between her Sparklers and the Club, particularly when two of the Sparklers begin fighting, placing the success of their booth at the Humane Society fundraiser in jeopardy.  And every time Kelsey thinks she has figured out who stole her notebook of secrets, she finds herself facing more questions - - alone!

Weighing in at 281 pages of story, there is plenty of room not only for the mystery, but for the ongoing character growth of each of the three main CCSC-ers, plus more development for the supporting cast (such as Kelsey's mom, who starts her new career with animal control; Kelsey's dad, who is still dealing with his inability to find employment; Kelsey's brother, who is more determined than ever to get into college and away from the small apartment the family now lives in; and the Sparklers, who create some nice antithesis to Kelsey and her friends).  We learn more about the community and the school, and by the end of the story, Kelsey and her family are in for a nice surprise.

And Singleton does not forget about her older fans.  She manages to sneak into the story some very cool nods to the children's mysteries of days gone by - such as the missing dog named "Bobbsey" and the address for the dog's owner is "1933 Larkspur Lane."  These, of course, reference the old Bobbsey Twins series (with the two sets of twins - Bert and Nan, Freddie and Flossie) and the 10th book in the Nancy Drew series, Password to Larkspur Lane (which was first published in 1933).  Then, we are reminded that the middle school that Kelsey and her friends attend is "Helen Corning Middle School" (named after Nancy Drew's first friend and sleuthing partner).  It's these little references here and there that add to the enjoyment of these books.

I know that the fourth book is on its way, and a fifth book is in the works, so at least I'll have two more wonderful adventures of these kids - although I hope that we'll be seeing many more to come after that!

RATING:  10 chiptastic cookies out of 10 for raising the bar on what a children's mystery should be!

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