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Shirley Link & The Safe Case Kindle Edition
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Top customer reviews
Mr. Zackheim introduces all of the characters in believable fashion and this detective story in a school setting moves along at a good pace. There’s humor and tongue in cheek. Kids will recognize their teachers, friends, and principals in the story. There are several more Shirley Link detective cases for kids to enjoy.
Recommended for kids ages 8 to 11.
Along with her endearing personality, Shirley has an incredible eye for detail that is her strongest weapon. After all, it's the detail that always catches the crooks. Reading Shirley was easy. I felt the style flowed and the mystery was revealed at a good pace.
In a Nutshell | Shirley Link is a Miss Marple of the future, but perhaps not so old and stodgy. Although she has such great skills, I like that she remains grounded and kind.
The mystery here is somewhere between the Encyclopedia Brown books and, say, Wendelin Van Draanen's Sammy Keyes books. I've always found Brown to be a very flat and uninteresting character, with no interesting secondary characters to speak of at all. Sammy Keyes is entertaining, but they might be for an older crowd, since they usually feature some personal drama or problem along with the mystery. So, we have a very comfortable niche for Shirley Link in that big overlooked middle
And this book does give us an interesting and engaging heroine. Sometimes she's taken right up to the edge of too full of herself, but she always manages to reel herself in before becoming too obnoxious. Plus, I think that's the risk you take when your character is full of snappy patter and snarky insight, and I think most middle graders would rather have a character who's a little too much rather than one who's a bit too little. It helps that the book is seasoned with two associate/friends who get some good lines of their own, even if they do have to stay second bananas. It's also particularly appealing that both of Shirley Link's parents are sharp cookies in their own right. I'm getting tired of parents who are cyphers or dopes or even worse, and its refreshing to have parents here who ask the right questions and give good advice and guidance.
And, some of the middle-grade-hard-boiled dialogue really is very funny, and very well aimed at the middle grade sensibility. It reminds me of the Chet Gecko school mysteries by Bruce Hale, (which are broader and punnier considering that all of the middle school students in those books are animals and that Chet Gecko actually is a gecko, with a mockingbird assistant).
So, you have an engaging personality in your hero, a decent mystery, solid writing craftsmanship, better than average dialogue, and a bit of attitude. Not bad at all.
The main issue was that Shirley just wasn't likable. She was vain, preening and had no redeeming qualities to balance those things out. Her two "assistants. I mean, friends," were little more than her personal studio audience, marveling at her crime-solving abilities and applauding like sycophantic puppets at every little thing she did. In addition, the other characters acted unrealistically, enlisting a kid to help them solve a potentially dangerous crime, especially one that needed to be kept secret and that the police were already working on. Of course, Shirley already knew about the secret stash of money, and why not; she knew everything else there was to know.
The plot was also flimsy. There was no mention of checking security cameras, and the internet was used as a font of endless information, telling Shirley not only that her principal was having financial problems (seriously? she gets emailed whenever someone files for bankruptcy?), that the librarian's house was in foreclosure and that the assistant principal was independently wealthy. Sorry, but it doesn't work like that. There were no clues, no following the clues and none of those magic moments when the main character figures something out and the reader goes back and reads the last few scenes trying to do the same. The Three Investigators mystery series was a master of this.
However, there is no denying that Mr. Zackheim has talent and hopefully, I will try another mystery series by him in the near future that satisfies me like a good middle-grade mystery should.
Most recent customer reviews
I would recommend this book to children who enjoy mystery stories.Read more