Created by Wendelin Van Draanen
On her first day of junior high school, Samantha Keyes gets suspended for punching another girl in the nose. Welcome to Sammy's world. She's not out seeking PI business, but folks in Santa Martina tend to ask her to look into things when there's a mystery to be solved. Maybe that's because the local constabulary, particularly Office Borsch, can't seem to solve any crime without Sammy's help.
Sammy lives in secrecy with her grandmother in a senior-citizens-only
apartment building where she's constantly hiding in the closet
visitors come by. Her mother has run off to Hollywood to become a movie star, so it's just Sammy and Grams holding down the fort. Sammy does have friends in Marissa and Holly and Dot, but it's Sammy alone who seems to always get deep into trouble in the wrong parts of town with the bad guys chasing her. She's tough and gritty and it takes a lot to scare her.
The stories are all first-person, and narration is filled plenty of "what I should have done is... but what I really did is..." She knows she may not have the best instincts, but she gets the job done.
This set of books has been published over the past six years, but so far all the stories have taken place in one school year -- Hotel Thief takes place as school starts in the fall, Skeleton Man is a Halloween book, Runaway Elf starts off with the Christmas parade, and so on. It's difficult to tell this early, but it feels like these books are going to age well.
The series is marketed to kids who in the 10-13 age group, but they make good read-aloud books for younger kids and older teenagers and adults shouldn't dismiss them out of hand.
And if you put any stock in the Edgars, Van Draanen was given the Best Juvenile award for Hotel Thief and was nominated for Curse of Moustache Mary, Search for Snake Eyes, and Art of Deception.
Respectfully submitted by Greg Harness.