Sun. Mar 26th, 2023

Book cover

Eleven-year-old Dotty Morgan is a self-proclaimed “supernatural sleuth.” Two years ago, she spotted but failed to catch a gnome stealing fabric from her mom’s sewing room. Now, Dotty investigates any crime with a hint of the supernatural. And when she determines there’s no tangible explanation for why french fries vanished from her oven at home, she’s on the hunt for a spectral larcenist. Sure enough, potato products disappear from stores and restaurants all over town. Dotty has her alarm clock–turned-Arcanometer to detect phantoms, along with helpful pals—her fashion-savvy best friend, Parker Pose, and the new girl at school, wrestler Hannah Matson. Well-read Dotty puts together some spells to draw in and banish the phantom so that she can once again savor her cherished french fries. But she may be after a human suspect as well—a nefarious, formidable individual who summoned this ghostly burglar in the first place. Martin’s teenage protagonist is endearingly odd. She dons a baseball cap lined with tinfoil (protection from mind control) and webcasts her detective exploits (“I’m staking out Mr. Tanner’s yard, investigating reoccurring instances of mysterious vandalism”). Dotty often finds herself immersed in absorbing, more realistic subplots, from school bullies to her mom’s new health kick subjecting her to such atrocities as sugar-, gluten-, and dairy-free pancakes that taste like Styrofoam. A supernatural element slowly creeps into the swiftly paced, enjoyable narrative, which includes a gratifying final-act payoff and an understated romance between Dotty and Hannah. Sadly, there’s not much sleuthing. Dotty relies on her Arcanometer to track down the apparition and doesn’t gather many clues, designating suspects based on a general wariness. Still, as this book launches a series, there should be copious future opportunities for her to shine.

By cb2gp