Tuesday, November 12, 2019

The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing

The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing
by Sheila Turnage
Recommended Ages: 11+

The tiny town of Tupelo Landing, North Carolina, isn't too tiny to have its own detective agency. The Desperado Detective Agency, comprising a mouthy sixth-grader named Mo (short for Moses) and her best friend Dale (named after a race car driver), has already served a murder and now undertakes the ghost-busting of an old inn. The mystery encompasses a girl's death way back when Mo's Grandmother Miss Lacy was a girl herself, stirring up decades worth of guilty consciences, undeclared love, family conflict and a bona fide restless spirit.

Found family seems to be the norm in Mo's small corner of the world. Mo, short for Moses, was found on the day of her birth floating on a makeshift raft in a flash flood. Since then, she has lived with an eccentric couple in the living quarters at the back of the town diner – a man everyone calls the Colonel, because nobody including himself knows his name, and a drama queen named Miss Lana who dresses up as a different movie starlet every day of the week. She writes letters to her "upstream mother" and puts them in bottles for friends and neighbors to toss off bridges when they travel out of town. She tries her teacher's patience to the limit (which is a considerable distance, since she's also a star pupil). She crushes on Dale's older brother Lavender, a real race car driver, and interferes in everybody else's business with a tactlessness that would be horrifying if it wasn't so darned funny.

There's also another interesting boy at school, whose grandfather is the curmudgeonly town moonshiner, and whose older brother is part of a group of ne'er-do-wells who are trying to run Miss Lana and Grandmother Miss Lacey out of the haunted inn they impulse-bought at an estate sale. What these conspirators are after and how far they will go to get it is a matter for the police to work out – or for Dale and Mo, if they get there first.

It's a spooky, funny mystery brimming with quirky characters, small-town charm, heart-touching moments of friendship and above all, the exuberant personality of Mo. I would recommend it to readers of all ages who are up for a little kid-friendly romance and a generous serving of laughs.

This is the second of four "Mo & Dale Mysteries." The series started with the Newbery Honor Book Three Times Lucky and continues in The Odds of Getting Even and The Law of Finders Keepers. Sheila Turnage is also the author of a chapter book titled Trout the magnificent and is credited with two nonfiction titles, Compass Guide to North Carolina and Haunted Inns of the Southeast.

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