- Alisa Williams
Finally, Something Mysterious by Doug Cornett
Paul and his two best friends, Peephole and Shanks, are the best junior detectives in all of Bellwood. Okay, so they’re the only junior detectives in Bellwood. Okay OKAY, so maybe junior detectives aren’t an actual thing according to Officer Portnoy BUT that doesn’t mean there isn’t a mystery afoot and Paul and his friends are on the case! They’ve solved loads before, but never anything quite as curious as the herd of rubber duckies that have appeared on Mr. Babbage’s front lawn. And is that a fish up in that tree? What is going on? Bellwood is a weird town, but it’s not that weird. Or is it?
Doug Cornett’s debut novel, Finally, Something Mysterious, is an absolute delight, and hands-down my favorite middle grade read so far this year. It’s my idea of a perfect MG novel – big heart, big stakes, and big laughs. The characters all have so much depth and warmth, and the town of Bellwood, which is a character all by itself, is so charmingly weird. I also love that the main character, Paul, and his two best friends are only children. As an only child myself, I remember finding fellow only children in the fictional realm (or the real world, for that matter) wasn’t always easy, and so to have three in one book is so exciting (yes, even as an adult reader).
The mystery of the rubber duckies is really well done and lots of fun. Cornett gives you just enough breadcrumbs to keep you guessing, but you won’t know whodunit until the very end. It’s the subplots that give the book such heart, though. Each of the characters is more than they appear – a lesson Paul and his friends learn as they investigate the rubber duckies. And then there’s the tensions within the One and Only trio. Paul’s family is struggling financially, Peephole has a baby sister on the way (what will this mean for the One and Onlys?), and Shanks has a propensity for tackling possible perpetrators that’s gonna land them on Officer Portnoy’s radar. Again.
Cornett weaves these tensions together masterfully, and the end result is indeed something mysterious. But it’s also beautiful and clever and witty, and a book I can’t wait to read again and again.
Thank you to the author for the free Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) in exchange for my honest review of this title.
Alisa Williams is the managing editor of SpectrumMagazine.org. She blogs at alisawilliamswrites.com, tweets at @AWWritesStories, and bookstagrams at @AllyWritesStories.
Photo by Alisa Williams.