The Misfits CLub by Kieran Crowley, 311 pp, RL 4

The Misfits Club by Kieran Crowley
Cover art by Rachel Sanson
Review Copy from the Author
Plot: Of the town where this novel takes place, travel writer Willam Wrydaughter said, "the only good thing that occurred in the two days I spent there was that I solved a centuries-old medical dilemma: I had finally found the cure for insomnia, and it's name was Newpark." Despite this reputation, or perhaps because of it, the Misfits Club, started by twins, Sam and Chris, and friends Brian and Hannah when they were eight, the club has never once seen any action or solved a mystery. Even worse, at the end of the summer, the Misfits Club will be disbanding when Sam and Chris move to Galway. When Amelia arrives in Newpark to "help" her gran on the farm for the summer, the friends invite her into their club with a game of "Gravest Danger," a combination board game/adventure game that finds them at a haunted cottage in the woods photographing a ghost. Determined to solve one mystery before the end of the summer, the friends find themselves investigating actual stolen property, doing online research and interviewing possible sources while getting in more than a few scrapes and close calls.

Why Read? Why Buy?: A genuine mystery novel for kids, set in the real world, is VERY hard to write, mostly because crimes, as we are used to seeing in the media, involve a lot more violence and danger than appropriate for a middle grade novel. With The Misfits Club, Crowley has crafted a story that is authentically mysterious and exciting, and, as the Misfits Club gets to the source of the crime, every step feels authentic and believable. Crowley achieves this, in part, by including journal entries, newspaper articles, letters and other artifacts throughout the novel that support the story and ground it, while also allowing for occasional first-person narrative. He also does a great job including technology - smart phones, the internet, tracking apps - in the story but does not let it dominate the story. The Misfits Club does a lot of foot work and brainstorming. For me, the best part of The Misfits Club is Officer Debra O'Loughlin. Early on in the novel, a newspaper article tells of an embarrassing moment early in her crime fighting career when two thieves got the best of her, leaving her stuck up a tree with Lumpy, a local ginger cat. When the Misfits Club first discovers what they believe to be stolen goods, they go right to the police and Officer O'Loughlin is assigned to the case. Here is where Crowley tackles - and succeed at - including an adult in a kid's mystery story, allowing for the story to play out in a more realistic fashion and assuring a happy (and safe) ending. Oh yeah, and there is a very funny plot thread involving a honey badger!

The UK cover for The Misfits Club

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