Three Times Lucky
By Sheila Turnage
Expected publication May 10, 2012 by Dial
Moses LoBeau (or Mo, as she is better known) was rescued from the worst storm in Tupelo Landing by the Colonel. This means that Mo has never known her "upstream mother" and has instead been raised by the Colonel and Miss Lana in the back of their cafe. But real trouble is about to come to the small town when Mr. Jesse winds up murdered. Detective Mo and her best friend, Dale Earnhardt Johnson III, are on the case.
I picked this book up on a whim at Midwinter, because I was charmed by the cover and the notion of a small Southern town mystery for kids. This book reminded me a lot of Deborah Wiles' titles Love, Ruby Lavender and Each Little Bird that Sings - full of quirky characters, in a very small-town, Old South setting. Often times, with all these books, I found myself wondering if people really still behaved this way in the South. I think they probably do. Turnage has created a spunky heroine out of Moses - she is determined to fight for what she believes in and will not be stopped by anyone, no matter who they might be. Tupelo Landing is a town full of characters, which makes this novel a wild and hard-to-believe ride. However, there is some real tough stuff happening as well - Mo has never known her birth mother and longs to find her, thinking it will help her define herself. Her best friend's father is the town drunk who regularly beats his family while on a bender. And Mo's adopted father lost his memory in an accident the same day he rescued her from the flood waters. It sounds like it could be dark, heavy stuff but Turnage deals with it in a light tone. I don't mean to say she diminishes the terrible things Dale's father does - by the end of the book, things have turned around for the Johnson family, though not for Mr. Johnson. What is at the heart of this book, though, is the mystery surrounding Mr. Jesse's death. It seems to me that mysteries are a growing genre for middle-grade readers and I'm not entirely sure this book will find its place with that crowd. A few elements of the mystery were a little too obvious, though perhaps they wouldn't be for young readers. Additionally, the setting and the over-the-top action may put off more serious mystery readers, though for me, that made the book more enjoyable. Overall, I'm a bit on the fence about this one. I adore the setting and characters and the general wackiness but the mystery itself fell a little flat for me.
Thanks to the publisher for an advance reader's copy.