Shannon Lightley is eighteen and completely confused about the direction she wants to go next. The daughter of a famous actress and a TV news reporter, she has been traveling around Europe for most of her childhood, after a few years in idyllic Oregon that she remembers fondly. She decided to finish high school there, but it all turned into a mess. The other kids shunned her, her aunt and uncle failed to understand her problems, and now she is set to fly back to Europe to be with her father, but she doesn’t want to go. Everyone in her family has plans and expectations for Shannon except herself. At the last minute she doesn’t get on the flight, and and turns to an old family friend, a lawyer she calls Uncle Frosty because of his white hair, and who has a practice in Portland, for help.
Uncle Frosty has an interesting job for her. He needs an undercover agent to investigate people named as beneficiaries in a will by an eccentric old lady, Mrs. Dunningham. The will is being contested by her daughter. Shannon jumps at the chance to become someone completely different for the summer. She has her red hair redone in a beehive and adopts the personality and mannerisms of the hairdresser, becoming Georgetta Smith. She rents the room that Mrs. Dunningham had lived in in a boarding house, and takes a waitress job at the local cafe, and is soon meeting all the people named in the will. Her job is to uncover any plot or scheme by those people to cajole or trick the elderly Mrs. Dunningham out of her money. As the summer progresses, she gets to know all the beneficiaries and comes to like them, making her job difficult and building her guilt at fooling them. Not everyone is fooled, but her cover is not blown. When she starts to fall in love with one of the beneficiaries, though, Shannon/Georgetta has some hard choices to make.
Eloise Jarvis McGraw’s books previous to this were all historical novels for young readers, many of which I’ve enjoyed. This was her first contemporary story, and has recently been reissued as an e-book. I liked the characters and the storyline as described here, which is about the first two thirds. Then it takes a turn away from the detective aspect and becomes a teen romance story, which I found less appealing. I enjoyed reading it, but would have preferred the author sticking to the original idea. Still, recommended.
Eloise Jarvis McGraw on Wikipedia.