Binny Bewitched

illus. by Tony Ross. 240p. (Binny: Bk. 3). ebook available. S. & S./Margaret K. McElderry Bks. Jun. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781481491020.
Gr 5–8—This latest addition to the series revolves around cash that Binny finds next to an ATM in town. Binny and her family live in a decrepit beach cottage in Cornwall, England, and everyone worries about money. So when Binny's windfall disappears from the cottage, she and her friend Gareth consider everyone a suspect. Was the thief her brother James or his friend Dill? What about her sister Clem, who sells her possessions for music lessons? Binny would like to exclude her mother and their handyman Pete from her investigation, but everyone acts suspiciously. Most ominous of all, their nosy neighbor Miss Piper aims cryptic comments at Binny, making her squirm with guilt. Most of the trouble unwinds by the end, although Binny's whimsical logic ensures future escapades. This is a comedic mix of contemporary "worry story" and a clue-based mystery. Both elements are intriguing, but McKay doesn't manage to mesh them together seamlessly. Binny is a writer, a detective, and a grieving daughter, but her identities don't fully coalesce. Binny is in middle school, but she acts much younger, while Ross's cover and interior pen-and-ink wash drawings feel solidly middle grade. It might take some readers' advisory to match Binny with the right audience. The protagonist's awkward missteps swell with unsophisticated exuberance; this novel might pair well with Jeanne Birdsall's The Penderwicks or another nouveau classic title.
VERDICT A charming British contemporary tale whose plot could be tighter. Purchase where the previous installments have an established following.

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