Pepper’s Rules for Secret Sleuthing

Simon & Schuster. Sept. 2020. 240p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781534453432.
Gr 4-6–Pepper Blouse’s rule number one is “your loyalty is always to the case,” and she takes this very seriously. Pepper wants to be a celebrated detective like her late mother, and is convinced that sleuthing runs in her blood. She always tries to expose the truth in all situations. From the moment Pepper and her father arrive at her Great Aunt Florence’s home after her sudden death, Pepper begins noticing weird things. Their cell phone service is suddenly nonexistent, but Aunt Wendy keeps making mysterious phone calls and meeting with the creepy landscaper. Pepper is unable to resist investigating Aunt Wendy and when she uncovers evidence that almost assuredly points to Florence’s murder, she enlists the help of the boy next door, Jacob, and her cousin Andrew along the way. On her quest for the truth, Pepper learns secrets about her family that she could never have imagined. Each chapter begins with one of Pepper’s rules for sleuthing, which are actually her mother’s rules that Pepper inherited after her death five years ago. In addition to dealing with losing a parent, many other family and friendship issues are successfully covered within the story. Pepper’s father may want to start dating soon, Pepper is struggling with new feelings for her classmate Ashley, and her new friend Jacob, a trans boy, is dealing with welcoming a new sister who he feels is his replacement.
VERDICT A great modern read-a-like for “Harriet the Spy” and other mystery classics like “Nancy Drew” and the “Hardy Boys.” Hopefully, there will be more adventures from Pepper and her friends in the future.

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