When Norah and her best friend, Darcy, are assigned to create a fake business for a school project, they decide to forgo boring business ideas like babysitting and focus instead on a detective agency. What Norah doesn’t realize, though, is that her fearless and unpredictable friend has hosted their project’s website on the school intranet. She finds out when, to the surprise of both girls, they receive a mysterious message from a popular classmate asking for help in finding her missing twin. Deciding they can’t let down anyone who is in trouble, the girls agree to take the case, but find that they may be in over their heads.
I have been eyeing this book for months, ever since I first caught a glimpse of the cover online, and I’m happy to say it was worth waiting for. I’m a sucker for tween paperbacks anyway, but this one’s lively characters, suspenseful plot, and twenty-first century technology make it exceptionally exciting. Norah is pretty similar to a lot of protagonists in books for this audience, but Darcy is a spunky, fun-loving girl who lives on the edge, and she is like a breath of fresh air. The mystery itself unfolds at just the right pace, with just enough clues and red herrings that the reader can solve the case, but can also get lost along the way. Even the explanation for the start of the girls’ detective agency is plausible, which is almost never the case in tween mysteries.
I described this book to a friend as a cross between the Nancy Drew series and the Candy Apple books. The Candy Apple comparison comes, of course, from the inevitable cute boy who catches Norah’s eye. His name is Zane, and Norah goes back and forth between thinking he likes someone else and imagining he likes her. Zane also has a secret of his own, but this book only hints at it, presumably leaving that thread to be picked up by a future book in the series.
Nancy Drew fans will enjoy this new series, as will girls who have read the Candy Apple and/or Poison Apple series. It makes a nice alternative for girls who aren’t into supernatural stuff, too, who might have a hard time finding enjoyable mysteries amongst all the vampires, ghosts and werewolves out there now. Girls who like Ruby Redfort might also enjoy Darcy, who shares Ruby’s same devil-may-care attitude and astonishing technical skills.
There are two more titles in the Sleuth or Dare series: Sleepover Stakeout, and Framed and Dangerous. Visit Kim Harrington’s website to learn more about these books and to download a Mini-Mystery Puzzle.
I purchased Partners in Crime from Barnes and Noble for my Nook.