Title: The Underdogs
Author: Sara Hammel
Recommended for: 5th grade and up
Call Number/Link: J FICTION HAMMEL, S.
Synopsis: The big reveal in this mystery is not who murdered golden girl Annabel Harper at an exclusive Massachusetts tennis club—though that’s startling enough. No, there’s actually a far bigger surprise. In alternating chapters, narrator Chelsea fills readers in on all that happened the weeks before Annabel was found dead by the side of the club’s pool, and after, as a local detective examined motives and opportunities among rising teen tennis stars, rich kids, and club personnel. Annabel was a fixture at the club, where her older brother was a lifeguard, and was especially nice to Chelsea and her best friend, Evie. Beautiful and sweet, Annabel attracted a great deal of attention and jealousy. But who could have disliked her enough to murder her? As with most good cozies, the suspects are numerous and the detective is tenacious. He has to be—as Evie and Chelsea follow him around and make dangerous discoveries on their own. Meanwhile, Evie, who is teased for being overweight, discovers she has a natural gift for tennis, though her tennis pro father seems not to notice. Readers learn more about Chelsea’s mysterious and abusive past before the club’s manager adopted her. The plot is well-thought-out, and though there isn’t a great deal of character development, except in Evie’s case, there doesn’t have to be for this mystery to score. VERDICT Once they get to the end, mystery lovers will want to go back and read it all again to find the hidden clues.
I wasn’t sure about this book at first. It took me a while to get into it. It might be because there isn’t a lot of character development except for Chelsea and Evie. I hung in there through the first couple of chapters to learn more about them. It was worth it. I really didn’t see the twist at the end coming, and that doesn’t happen very often. I would recommend this for mystery lovers and for kids who like books with puzzles and problems to solve. There aren’t individual puzzles, the book itself is one big puzzle.