Monday, September 26, 2016

Friday Barnes, Under Suspicion

Friday Barnes and her classmates may only be 11 years old, but their actions, their dialogue, and their whole demeanor more accurately portray the older teen set of today's society - - leading me to wonder, why didn't the author simply make them older and place them in high school?  Of course, let's face reality - there aren't really any young adult mystery series any more that feature older teens.  It seems authors only want to use 10 - 14 year old to solve their mysteries.  Even Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys have suddenly been given ambiguous ages (whereas they used to be 16, then 18, and now no age is given....)

However, I can easily overlook this for the simple matter that these Friday Barnes books are ABSOLUTE FUN!

Friday Barnes, Under Suspicion picks up exactly where the first book ended - with poor Friday being arrested in front of the entire school. An 11-year old an international terrorist?  That's what the police think, thanks to a tip they received and a suspiciously hollow hockey sticks that contains some very unique beans.  Of course, in true Friday Barnes style, she quickly points out to the police that the beans are common beans used in every day cooking and that she was being set up.  Once she is proven right (of course!), she quickly discerns that her love interest/nemesis, Ian Wainscott, was behind the whole plot...

...but not before she meets a man at the police station who was accused of stealing an expensive sapphire bracelet - and not before she takes the police on a visit to the woman's house and shows them exactly how and why the man (who begrudgingly tells her his name is Malcolm) is innocent.  As a result, Friday gets the $10,000 reward for returning the bracelet to its owner.

From there, R.A. Spratt takes readers another roller coaster of fun, as Friday solves one insignificant mystery after another - from the case of the missing calculator (which reveals another mystery involving an unbeknownst twin), to the mystery of the perfect quiche (which begs the question, what happened to the dead cat?), to the mystery of the not-so-kidnapped student (who ends up in the dump), to the mystery of the holes appearing everywhere on the grounds (and into which teachers and students alike seem to fall and hurt themselves), to how someone managed to steal a map of the school from a locked room (the answer involves a wet string and some of Friday's own saliva - don't ask!).  Of course, there's an over-arching mystery that concerns an escaped convict, an unconscious groundskeeper, and a secret that dates back all the way to 1987!  (Yeah, right, like that's really so long ago.....).  And with her usual finesse - or, actually, lack thereof, Friday manages to stay right in the thick of things and solve the mystery that even the police can seem to solve (or really, even care about).

And just to give you a taste of the kind of humor Spratt sprinkles throughout this series, below is one of my favorite scenes from the book...
"What's this?" asked Mrs. Cannon, holding up a thick novel.
"Les Miserables," said Melanie.
"I can see that," said Mrs. Cannon.  "Why on earth are you putting it in here?"
"It's painfully boring, ma'am," said Melanie.
"That's true enough," agreed Mrs. Cannon. "There are good bits in there, eventually. But you have to wade through so much blather before you get to the love triangles and barricades.  You're much better off going to see the musical.  But you can't put the book in the time capsule-there's not enough space."
"What if you burned it first?" asked Melanie. "Ashes would take up less room."
"Good point," said Mrs. Cannon.  "I like your lateral thinking.  Be sure to give yourself an A for this assignment."
I admittedly laughed out loud when I read this scene (and trust me, there's more where this comes from scattered throughout the book).

Spratt leaves us with another "To Be Continued..." at the end of this book, so you've got time to run out and buy the first two books before book three hits the stores early next year.  Trust me, it doesn't matter how old you are, you'll get a kick out of these books!

RATING:  9 pinto bean-filled hockey sticks out of 10 for making me laugh and reminding me just how enjoyable reading can be at times!

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