The Candy Mafia

Peachtree. Sept. 2020. 300p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781682631973.
Gr 4-6–Twelve-year-old Nelle Faulkner is a private detective. It annoys her that adults think she’s playing. She dresses the part, sporting a fedora and a trench coat; set up an official office in the garden shed; and has actual clients. She works on the right side of the law; but since Mayor Thornton prohibited candy of any kind in town, she’s been known to turn a blind eye to the candy bootlegging operations that have sprung up. Nelle is nonplussed when prominent bootlegger Eddie de Menthe hires her to find a missing Teddy—then he goes missing. As Nelle interviews the various candy bootleggers, she stumbles onto an even greater mystery as she learns just how vast the operation is. She’s also being tailed by a pair of sinister detectives from the Mayor’s police force. Nelle is a sturdy, intrepid, practical character surrounded by a colorful cast of candy-obsessed children and adults in this fast-paced mystery. Grey-toned illustrations and spot art enliven the story. Young readers might not get all the film noir references, but there’s plenty here to satisfy tween mystery lovers.
VERDICT This is Charlie and the Chocolate Factory meets film noir; there’s mystery, humor, plenty of action, and a red herring or two with an explosive climax.

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