A summer treasure hunt
Twelve-year-old Candice is spending the summer at her late grandmother’s old cottage in Lambert, South Carolina, while her Atlanta home is being renovated. Her parents’ divorce, while amicable, has left Candice feeling adrift. It can be lonely to resettle in a new town, even temporarily. But then Candice meets Brandon, a shy, self-proclaimed book nerd like herself. While rummaging through the attic, the two unearth an old letter from the city’s mysterious benefactor that contains clues to a treasure hunt. The prize is a substantial sum of money. Candice is eager to solve the mystery, not just to alleviate her boredom but also to vindicate her grandmother—Lambert’s first African-American city manager—who was forced out of her job when she tried to solve this very puzzle. Armed with ingenuity and a love of reading, Candice and Brandon bike throughout town, interviewing longtime residents and combing through the town’s archives.
With a nod to The Westing Game, Varian Johnson has penned a smart mystery that deftly explores the history of racial segregation in the South, modern-day discrimination, friendship, love and bullying. Interspersed throughout the novel are the historical narratives of those at the center of the puzzle. Their unique voices and compelling backstories enrich the plot and provide context for the mystery. Beautifully written, this complex story will captivate an adult audience as well.
This article was originally published in the April 2018 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.