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*The Red Blazer Girls: The Secret Cellar* by Michael D. Beil - middle grades book review
Also by Michael D. Beil:

Summer at Forsaken Lake

The Red Blazer Girls: The Vanishing Violin
The Red Blazer Girls: The Secret Cellar
by Michael D. Beil
Ages 9-13 288 pages Knopf October 2012 Hardcover    

The Red Blazer Girls are back again, solving their fourth mystery in New York City. This time, the four friends from St. Veronica’s School find clues about the estate of an old man who had no family but built an impressive, unusual home in the heart of the city.

The adventure begins when the central character, Sophie St. Pierre, is shopping for a Christmas gift for her father. She finds a $20 bill on the street, right in front of a fortune teller. Just for laughs, Sophie has her fortune told. It is uncanny how the fortune teller knows about her past; could she also be predicting her future?

Later, Sophie finds a beautiful old fountain pen in an antique store but must wait until the auction to buy it. As she polishes up the pen at home, she finds a cryptic note rolled up inside. This clue leads the girls into an intriguing mystery about the Nine Worthy Men.

Their search for each subsequent clue takes them on an interesting adventure in which they uncover secrets with the help of some trusted adults. The clues lead to a mysterious man’s home and his amazing cellar. It is a race against time as someone else is trying to learn the secret of the cellar and the riches within before the girls can.

The central mystery in this book is particularly intriguing as it involves a missing World War II German spy, several codes and keys which unlock the clues, and villains who are difficult to frame. Side plots about the girls’ favorite coffee shop and reuniting an older couple are interesting mostly to readers familiar with the other books in the series.

The Secret Cellar is a “must-have” for owners of the first three books in the series. The series is a terrific modern choice for girls who love a good mystery. The characters are realistic, flawed and funny middle school girls. The New York setting is exciting and full of unusual characters around every corner.

The tie to World War II spy history is intriguing, but not fully developed. Beil has a way of grabbing his readers’ attention clue by clue, interspersing the central storyline with the girls’ real life middle-school escapades.

While The Secret Cellar can be enjoyed on its own, to appreciate the characters and humor, it is best read as part of the series. Recommended.
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