Thursday, April 12, 2012

Missing Persons: Vanishing Acts by Phillip Margolin

By the time eighth-period science rolled around, Madison had started to get the hang of junior high. She'd figured out where her classes were, where the seventh graders hung out, and where the eighth graders ruled. But she still hadn't seen Ann, and she was convinced that something bad had happened to her.

The stars of their elementary school's state champ soccer team, Madison Kincade and her BFF Ann Beck had promised to rock the secondary school soccer world together, but after being away in Europe with her father all summer, Ann has not shown up at their new school, nicknamed "The Grove." When she doesn't turn up for the one-time-only soccer team tryouts, Madison is sure there is more than just a casual mystery there. The daughter of a criminal case lawyer, Madison knows more about dark deeds done in the night than the average kid her age, and has a penchant for investigation herself.

And then another mystery presents itself in a wee-hours telephone call to her father from the husband of her second-grade teacher, Mrs. Shelby. A busybody neighbor has reported that she saw Mr. Shelby removing what looked like his wife's body to their station wagon after an early morning screaming fight. The snoopy gossip's story is bolstered by the physical evidence found in the Shelby kitchen--a blood-spattered counter, a bloody knife, and a missing wife. Madison now has two missing persons to sleuth out as she begins her middle-school year.

Phillip Margollin and daughter Ann Margollin Rome combine their talents in the first of a proposed series of Madison Kinkaid mysteries, Vanishing Acts (Madison Kincaid), Madison is cut from the classic Nancy Drew cloth, and in this first book she deals capably with the problems of middle-school life--a jealous eighth-grade bully, Marci, who trips and elbows her viciously at soccer practice, and a good-looking boy who is keen to join Madison in her after-school investigations of the two missing persons in her life. This is a light-hearted mystery, with no terrifying scenes or insoluble conflicts in the plot line, but an attractive and self-sufficient young detective who manages to help her father with his cases whether he asks for it or not. With a resourceful young sleuth and a cute guy sidekick in place, this looks like a series with a lot of promise.

Along with Leslie Margolis' recently introduced Maggie Brooklyn series (see my review of her first book, Girl's Best Friend (Maggie Brooklyn Mystery), here, the girl detective genre is certainly alive and well.

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