Raised on Cooper Island by the unpleasant Madam Skratch at the Lowside Institute for Woeful Children, 10-year-old orphan Wilma Tenderfoot remains determinedly optimistic, reading everything she can about her idol, island detective Theodore P. Goodman. "His noble deeds and intentions lifted Wilma from the drudgery of her everyday existence. How she longed to be a detective like him!" When she is sent off to be a servant to a woman named Mrs. Waldock ("Please feel free to beat her," reads the accompanying note from Madam Skratch), Wilma is delighted to make a friend (a dog named Pickle) and to discover that Goodman lives next door. She sets her heart on becoming his apprentice, despite his reluctance, and when an enormous gem disappears and people start turning up dead, they have a case. First published in the U.K., this first children's book from British author and TV personality Kennedy is characterized by an almost gleefully misanthropic sense of humor, offset by Wilma's enduring good spirits. The fast pace, suspenseful subplots, and gory details should please kids with a taste for wicked humor. Simultaneously available: The Case of the Putrid Poison. Ages 8–12. (Sept.)
“Kennedy’s narrative is rambling and silly in the best possible way.
Gr 3–6—This first book in the series is uneven and ultimately unsatisfying. Told through the perspective of a Snicket-esque third-person narrator, it begins the story of Wilma Tenderfoot, orphan and aspiring detective. When she's hired as a servant for bitter Mrs. Waldock, she gets the chance to fulfill her dreams: legendary detective Theodore P. Goodman lives next door. While he attempts to solve a mystery involving a stolen jewel and victims found with frozen hearts, Wilma willfully inserts herself into the case, sometimes finding clues and sometimes just getting into trouble. For much of the book, even young readers may sympathize with Goodman over Wilma. She is a bit plucky, too precocious, and her appearances can be a grating. The mystery itself is interesting and develops well as Goodman, and, in a parallel plot line, villainous Barbu D'Anvers, follow well-placed clues to discover the culprit. However, the resolution is weak, and the frozen hearts have little to do with the culprit or plot.—Heather Talty, formerly at Columbia Grammar & Preparatory School, New York City
Ten-year-old Wilma Tenderfoot, whose life's ambition is to be a great detective, finds an opportunity when the Katzin Stone is stolen and several people are murdered on tiny Cooper Island.
Sold from the Institute for Woeful Children to cantankerous Mrs. Waldock, foundling Wilma gets her chance when she discovers that Theodore P. Goodman, the island's greatest detective, lives next door. Ignoring her assigned tasks—muddying windows and scraping scabs—the determined child-investigator introduces herself, makes deductions, creeps after suspects, escapes circuitously and takes careful notes. She's joined in these activities by her new best friend, Pickle, a remarkably talented beagle who can fetch and carry messages and even make good detecting suggestions. This British import, the first of four already published in the UK, is full of hints about dire occurrences to come. At one point the author directly suggests that readers might want a hanky. The melodrama, outlandish invention and exaggerated humor will appeal to fans of Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events. Wilma is an appealing character, ever-hopeful that Goodman will take her on as an apprentice and help her find out more about her origins. The fast-paced plot twists and turns, but the conflict between good and evil is clear.
With plenty of loose ends for further installments, this is a promising beginning for a mystery series. (Mystery. 8-12)