November 14, 2011

The Case of the Missing Deed

by Ellen Schwartz
Tundra Books
978-0-88776-959-7
189 pp.
Ages 8-12
2011

In mystery writing, the cozy is a sub genre that emphasizes characters with amateur detective skills and the depiction of no or little violence or sex.  The Case of the Missing Deed, which appears to be the first in a series called Teaspoon Detectives, is surely a cozy, with five cousins helping locate the deed to their grandmother's cottage before Tantalus Mining acquires it and other properties on Otter Island to excavate a tantalum mine within the island's Pacific Northwest beauty.

The five cousins, from Victoria and Vancouver, have come to spend their holidays with their Grandma who, recently widowed, cannot locate the deed to her home, and seems emotionally unprepared to pursue it.  Luckily her grandchildren (Sébastien, Geneviève, Claire, Alex and Olivia) are determined to decipher the riddles and clues their Grandpa left on recipes and various objects on the island.  So while sharing a number of great recipes (Emergency Fudge, Muriel's Berry Pandowdy, Chocolate Cinnamon Sparkle Cookies, etc.), decoding a cryptic message, and still having fun at the cottage, the kids bring this cozy to a fitting conclusion.  Of course, because this is a cozy (defined by the warm feeling with which the reader is left), the deed will be located, the bad guys will get their just rewards, and all loose ends will be resolved.  

Even at 189 pages, this is a light read, with few subplots or issues to complicate the mystery, although some obvious red herrings were included.  Young readers will enjoy the straightforward plot but appreciate the recipes and complicated codes that challenge them.  But, it is hoped that Schwartz will share more of her characters with her readers in subsequent books in this series as she has the basis for a rich and varied group of Teaspoon Detectives here. 

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