Friday Barnes, Under Suspicion
The adorable pint-size private detective returns in Friday Barnes, Under Suspicion. (Her first adventure, Friday Barnes, Girl Detective, came out in January.) The eleven-year-old young woman is still struggling with her boarding school, as she’s not as polished or accepted as the more typical girls. Her disturbingly accurate powers of observation frighten the headmaster, although he benefits when she finds a missing student or solves a historical school mystery.
R.A. Spratt’s approach is full of adventure, jumping into events with a bang as we see Friday arrested on suspicion of terrorist activities. They claim to have found castor seeds, which can be used to make ricin, in her possession.
Friday is portrayed as highly literal and socially awkward, a typically Sherlockian set of traits, but with her, it’s light-hearted and entertaining. Her photographic memory can occasionally be a tad too convenient, but it’s reminiscent of Encyclopedia Brown, although Friday’s adventures are less puzzle-driven, more character-based. I particularly liked the way that, when taken into police custody, she’s more interested in how the station looks and works than any danger she might be in, since she has utter confidence in her intelligence.
The bigger mystery is “why is someone digging holes all over the campus?” but along the way, we also see Friday free a wrongfully arrested vagrant, get involved with the cute new boy, find a missing calculator, and solve the mystery of the substitute quiche. New this volume is English teacher Mrs. Cannon, the most disconnected instructor possible, whom I’d love to study under. Her relationship with her students is another source of imaginative humor, as they conspire with her to not do any work.
The illustrations by Phil Gosier have a distinct sense of character (as shown on the cover). I wish we had more of them beyond the couple per chapter, since they’re snappy in style and helpful in picturing the events.
The next book, Friday Barnes, Big Trouble, is due out in January, and it promises to show us more of her family, which I’m eagerly anticipating. Her parents are physics Ph.Ds and have no sense of the everyday, which amuses me greatly. (The publisher provided an advance digital review copy.)