Three Times Lucky
by Sheila Turnage
Recommended Ages: 11+
When a police detective rolls into town, Lavender's little brother and Mo's best friend, Dale Earnhart Johnson III, worries that he's going to be arrested for borrowing (without permission) the town miser's fishing boat. Going to jail would be like going to a reunion of the male side of his family, Lavender excepted. Just imagine how scared Dale feels when the old guy turns up dead – murdered. Dale and Mo get ahead of Detective Joe Starr's investigation by starting their own, along with the Desperado Detective Agency. There sure are some suspicious characters in town, any of whom could have done the crime. Unfortunately, one of them is Dale's daddy.
In the little pond of Tupelo Landing, North Carolina, Mo is a pretty big fish – albeit in a small package. She has an outrageous mouth on her, and a commanding attitude, and when it comes to sleuthing, she's actually quite good. There is no shortage of quirky personalities around her, though, from the preacher's kid who can't stop talking about the weather, to the little girl who hasn't let age and a lack of a law degree get between her and a career as a lawyer. There's also a kid who likes doing accounting stuff (and who's sweet on Dale), a group of garden club ladies whose gossip embodies the shifting winds of public opinion, and a snotty rich girl affectionately known as Attila Celeste. Some of the guests in town are pretty weird, too – including that cop, Joe Starr, who soon begins to realize that he's met his equal in young Miss Mo.
This hilarious, heart-warming mystery of manners in small-town southern USA was a runner-up for the Newbery Medal. Its (so far) three sequels include The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing, The Odds of Getting Even and The Law of Finders Keepers. Sheila Turnage is also the author of a children's book Trout the Magnificent and a couple of non-fiction travel books about the Southeastern U.S.