Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Book Review: Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage (2012)

Moses “Mo” LoBeau has lived with the Colonel and Miss Lana in Tupelo Landing, North Carolina ever since she was a baby and washed up after a hurricane. Since then, she’s wondered about the woman she refers to as her “Upstream Mother”, whom she sends messages in bottles, hoping she will someday respond. Until recently, the identity of her biological mother has been Mo’s only mystery, but all that changes when Mr. Jesse, a grumpy regular customer at the Colonel’s cafe, turns up dead. Mo and her best friend, Dale - himself a suspect in the murder because he “borrowed” Mr. Jesse’s boat just hours before his death - decide to help the authorities solve this case by forming their own detective agency. What they uncover, however, is much bigger than either of them anticipates, and there are many twists and turns on their way to the truth.

I’m a sucker for a Southern story, so this book was a natural choice for me, and on top of that, Betsy Bird gave it a glowing review that stuck in my mind so that I recognized the book instantly when it arrived at my library. As it turns out, Mo deserves every bit of praise she received from Ms. Bird, because she is one heck of a memorable middle grade heroine! Mo’s way with words, her sense of humor, her can-do attitude, and her fearlessness in the face of adults make her stand out among her fictional peers and make the reader instantly want to follow her adventures. Tupelo Landing is also a very lively and interesting place, and it doesn’t take long for the reader to feel at home there. This sense of comfort and belonging immediately set the reader up to feel Mo’s sense of loss and betrayal when someone is murdered right in her own town.

I have to admit that I didn’t have very much trouble figuring out the mystery once all the clues had been revealed. That’s not to say it wasn’t enjoyable, or that the story isn’t worth reading, but most of the twists were not news to me by the time they were actually spelled out. That doesn’t make it any less exciting, though, as a storm, a kidnapping, and various other events really draw things out and build up the suspense to such a height that there was a certain point after which I refused to put the book down until the story was over. There are also some interesting insights into the relationship between Lana and the Colonel that come at the end of the story, and a big joke whose punchline made me laugh out loud.

Obvious read-alikes for this book would be Because of Winn Dixie and The Higher Power of Lucky, since both depict small Southern towns and both have motherless protagonists. Digging deeper, though, Three Times Lucky should also work well for kids who like mysteries with a strong sense of place, such as the Wilma Tenderfoot books, The London Eye Mystery, and Missing on Superstition Mountain.

1 comment:

  1. Listening to the audio version right now and it's great!