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Local teen mystery wins over with charm

I So Don't Do Mysteries
I So Don't Do Mysteries
By Barrie Summy

Delacorte: 2008

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This review first appeared in the January 11, 2009 issue of the North County Times.

Set mostly in San Diego, and venturing north to the San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park, "I So Don't Do Mysteries," a teen mystery by Santee author Barrie Summy, mostly gets things right in a fun, summery read with likable characters and a fresh story. (Yes, it is winter as this is being released, but it reads like a summertime release.)

Phoenix seventh-grader Sherry Baldwin is still coping with the death of her mother, killed while on duty as a police officer in Phoenix, when her father announces he's getting remarried – to her math teacher, unflatteringly known to Sherry and her friends as The Ruler. Oh, and there's her blooming crush on the super-cute Josh Morton to deal with, too.

So when her mother shows up in ghost form, saying she needs Sherry's help to prevent the pending death of an endangered rhino at the Wild Animal Park all the way out in San Diego – well, Sherry can be excused for questioning her own sanity.

But things begin to work out, in best teen mystery form. Sherry and her best friend, Junie, are packed off from Phoenix to her great-aunt's in Coronado, while her dad and her new step-mom head off on a honeymoon. Sherry has to persuade Junie to help out with the rhino mystery while not appearing too crazy – and then Josh and his parents end up vacationing in San Diego, too, and things get really woolly.

From the hectic world-view of young teens to the local landscape of San Diego, Summy does a good job of keeping things real while moving the story along. There are a few quibbles here and there (the book refers to the monorail at the Wild Animal Park, which is now long gone, and would elderly folks really drive from the Wild Animal Park in Escondido all the way to Coronado to buy a gun when there are numerous gun shops in between?), but the story largely makes at least some sense.

In the end, San Diego's sunny locale combines with Summy's entertaining story for a winsome mystery that should appeal both to young readers and their parents.