Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Red Blazer Girls: The Mistaken Masterpiece by Michael D. Beil

After 3 books, Sophie Jeanette St. Pierre still holds a place in my heart as one of my favorite 12-year-old narrators. Author Michael D. Beil's 3rd Red Blazer Girls novel brings back the New York girls for another adventure in after-school sleuthing. Previously they solved logic and math puzzles to find a missing ring and a twice-stolen violin.

Father Julian enlists the Red Blazer Girls Detective Agency (Sophie, Becca, Margaret & Leigh Ann) to help him determine the age of a painting. He asks the girls to sort through a box of old family photos to find images of the painting in hopes of being able to date it. See, if the picture is older than 1961 then it's an original Pommeroy. If it's later, it's a fake.

Add to this sub-plots about a couple of young movie stars and a dog with strange behavior, Sophie's rocky relationship with classmate Livvy, and Sophie's very own mystery of mysterious packages arriving at her house for her. A pot of dirt? Huh?

Beil returns with the clever chapter titles ("So, who wins in a fight between a crocodile and a unicorn?" and "In which I set loose an army of killer ants on Livvy. Okay, not really, but a girl can fantasize, can't she?"), vocabulary words, puns, and literature references. The girls are reading short stories about conflict and irony in their English class. One in particular is "The Interlopers" by Saki. How's that for light middle grade reading? And don't worry, he's also brought back the Charles Dickens references. Speaking of references, the movie filming is called "No Reflections" which is based on a best-selling teen paranormal romance. Ha! And the shady art dealers? The Svindahls. Double ha! Everything is a puzzle to figure out.

Sure there are many convenient plot developments and many times someone just happens to see someone or something, etc.  I also marvel at the girls schedules: homework, school, swim practice, band practice, solving mysteries. This book took a little bit more time to engross me, but once the mystery kicked into full gear it was another exciting ride to the finish. This time the reader is shown 4 photographs and the answer to the mystery is solved by figuring out the clues that link them together. I loved flipping back to those pictures each time an "Ah ha!" moment came up.

These are fun, fun books. I eagerly await the next one.

Red Blazer Girls on Facebook with links to articles about the author and series.

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