© Cynthia Voigt.
I’m not a fan of murder mysteries, but I do like puzzle mysteries, and ones involving kids solving crimes. This is one of those, published in 1991, that I picked up recently in a used book store. I’d read one other book by the author that I liked, and the premise sounded interesting.
Teenagers Althea and Phineas have just moved to a small college town in Maine with their father, who has taken a professorial position at the college. It’s summer, and the kids are essentially on their own until the new school year starts. Their mother is on the west coast, having accepted a new job of her own working for a politician. Much family tension revolves around this point, even though they all agreed to try this parental split for a while, allowing both parents to make good career moves.
Turns out there is a dead body, but it’s been dead for 2000 years. A wealthy benefactor and collector has willed his Egyptian artifacts to the college, and the kids’ dad is put in charge of unpacking and cataloging it. Lots of people on the college faculty and the benefactor’s family seem to have problems with or vested interests in this choice, causing the dad much trouble. And a nosy girl reporter’s newspaper story about the collection and its mummy gives too much information, so when an attempted burglary into the collection room is foiled, there are dozens of suspects. Phineas and Althea get right on the case, and soon into lots of trouble.
It’s a well-told story. Voigt made the choice to include lots of topical references, everything from the first Batman movie to the first President Bush, which makes it now seem a bit dated, but in 20 years will make it a period piece, no doubt. Without that element it could have been a more timeless and present-day story, but that’s a minor quibble. If you like this sort of thing, it’s quite well done, literate but realistic at the same time, and with good characters and suspenseful plot. Recommended.