Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Middle-Grade/Teen Review: The Mystery of the Third Lucretia

I was a huge fan of Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden books when I was a kid (still am!), so I thoroughly enjoyed reading an exciting new mystery novel, The Mystery of the Third Lucretia by Susan Runholt. This book is the start of a new series starring two fourteen-year old girls, Kari Sundgren and Lucas Stickney, who are best friends.

In this first book, Kari and Lucas stumble upon a mysterious man in two different art museums, and before they know it, they’re mixed up in an international art crime. The girls live in Minnesota with their families, where they share an interest in drawing and painting. When Kari’s mom has to travel to Europe for work, the girls are lucky enough to accompany her.

Kari and Lucas visit London’s National Gallery while Kari’s mom is busy at work, and they spot the same foul-tempered man painting in the Rembrandt room that they saw months ago at The Art Institute in Minneapolis. They hurry out of the room and talk about what they’ve seen:

“See, I knew it was the same guy!” Then I added, “I wonder…”

“What he’s doing that makes him think he has to wear a disguise?” Lucas finished for me.

“Uh-huh.”

Now we were both quiet for a minute. “What are you thinking?” I asked finally. She had an expression I’d seen before.

“Oh, nothing.”

“Nothing my meep. When you get that look, it usually means you’re making some plan that’s going to get us in trouble.”

“No, no, nothing like that,” she said, trying to sound all innocent.

But I was right. She was planning something. In fact, that afternoon in the National Gallery was the beginning of something that would get us into more trouble – and put the whole Gleesome Threesome in more danger – than we’d ever been in before.


Kari and Lucas come across as real girls, with intelligence and humor (like their habit of substituting meep for swear words!). This realism may be partly due to the fact that the author’s daughter helped her write the book and consulted with her in particular on the characters and dialogue of the two girls.

The suspense builds as pieces of the mystery are uncovered while the girls travel with Kari’s mom from London back home to Minnesota, then to Paris and Amsterdam. I loved the travel aspect of the book, reading about different cities the girls visited, as the mystery deepens and their suspicions build. Like all classic kid detectives before them, they figure things out that the grown-ups miss and become more deeply entangled in sinister events until their very lives are at stake, building to an exciting climax in Amsterdam.

I’m looking forward to reading more Kari & Lucas Mysteries! The second book, Rescuing Seneca Crane, was released in August. To read more about these books and the rest of the series, visit Susan Runholt’s website.

278 pages, Puffin Books (Penguin)

1 comment:

Laughing Stars said...

This looks great! I was a big Nancy Drew fan back in the day, too. :-)