Secrets of Shakespeare’s Grave (The Letterford Mysteries, Book 1) by Deron R. Hicks
Release Date: September 4, 2012
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Buy It: Amazon | IndieBound
Twelve-year-old Colophon Letterford has a serious mystery on her hands. Will she discover the link between her family’s literary legacy and Shakespeare’s tomb before it’s too late? Antique paintings, secret passages, locked mausoleums, a four-hundred-year-old treasure, and a cast of quirky (and some ignoble) characters all add up to a fun original adventure. Readers will revel in a whirlwind journey through literary time and space in real-world locales from Mont St. Michel to Stratford-Upon-Avon to Central Park!
I love middle-grade! I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this, but I’m nearly done with my undergrad degree in Special Education, and lately I’ve been really interesting in finding good middle-grade novels for my future classroom (here, let me recommend two MG novels by Laura Amy Schlitz, A Drowned Maiden’s Hair and The Night Fairy) so I just really wanted this one when I saw it up on NetGalley. Plus, it’s got a little history thrown in there, which is always a plus when choosing novels for a classroom! This one starts off with a little backstory before we meet Colophon and the modern day Letterfords. Colophon’s family sounds stifling, with a rigid seating hierarchy at Thanksgiving dinner and a strict rule that ownership of the company passes to the eldest child only. Her family is rich, owning a huge home with its own library. Colophon is twelve and has her own laptop. None of this stuff bothered me, but I was kind of amused by all the stuff in the Letterford mansion, the formal way her family spoke, and her interactions with her brother. Plus, I love a good black sheep, and Cousin Julian fits the bill quite well.
As we got into the mystery, I found myself liking Colophon more and more. Where at first she seemed annoyingly inquisitive (a common trait among intellectually gifted children), she later seemed charming and precocious. I started to really like both her and the little mystery she’s solving. While Mull Letterford, Colophon’s father, is trying to save his family’s publishing house in Georgia, Colophon herself eventually travels to London to get down to business trying to find the hidden family treasure. The relationship between Colophon and Julian is fun to watch unfold, because Julian has been almost outcast his whole life. I found it amusing that his way back into the family’s good graces was his twelve year old cousin.
As the book goes on, it becomes increasingly obvious that someone is trying to sabotage Mull’s reign as head of the publishing house. Colophon’s main suspect is her father’s recently reappeared cousin, Treemont. I felt so sorry for Mull during his scenes, but even his catastrophes are humorous (to us, at least), keeping a whimsical air about the whole thing. During all of this, Colophon is with cousin Julian in Stratford-upon-Avon, and while the clues fall into her lap a little to easily, the story is cute and fun, and the mystery is easy to follow. Colophon’s brother, Case, who seems like an insensitive jerk in the beginning, turns out to have some depth in him after all. This one was a quick read, but I enjoyed it immensely.