Review: A really good MG mystery

Middle grade boys and girls who like to read for fun and pleasure will enjoy Eve Bunting’s Coffin on a Case.

What or who is Coffin? Henry Coffin is the son of a private detective. Actually, Henry considers himself a partner along with the third member of the company. Henry’s mom left when he was a baby, and he has always been taken care of by the housekeeper, Mrs. Sypes (“Sypey”).

Henry gets pulled into a case when both his dad and the other detective are out of town. This case involves a beautiful sixteen-year-old blond female, or “dame” as Sam Spade would say. With her swishing curls, she’s out of twelve-year-old Henry’s league.

Who is Sam Spade you ask? If you don’t know Sam Spade and you like detective stories, you must get acquainted with him. He is the hero of a number of Dashiell Hammet’s novels—one of those “hard boiled” detectives. Mrs. Bunting dedicated her novel to him and Henry tries to emulate him. (Not that Henry could ever be hard boiled). Well, maybe pushing a woman down the stairs qualifies as “hard boiled.”

But that episode comes near the end of the novel, so we better back up.

Henry’s client is Lily. Her mother, who makes wooden storks to advertize new babies, is missing. Lily has a driver’s license, so Henry goes with her to look for her mother. Lily’s mom is a very organized and routine-oriented saleslady. She keeps a detailed list of her customers and their addresses. Her method is to keep ten blue storks and ten pink in the trunk of her car. There is a place on each stork to suspend a sign saying either “It’s a boy” or “It’s a girl.” The big clue is that there is one fewer storks than there are baby announcements.

The question is who would steal a wooden stork and kidnap the artist who made it? Is there something more sinister at play here? Henry finds out and solves not only the kidnapping case but another crime as well. Oh, and the woman he pushed down the stairs—she deserved it; that was the way Henry saved the life of Lily’s mom.

Lily and her mom are grateful to Henry, and Henry can hardly wait to grow up to become a real private detective.

This book is available through I bought a paperback copy and the opinion here is strictly candid.


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. J. Aday Kennedy
    Jul 14, 2011 @ 14:28:09

    I love a good mystery.


  2. ccgevry
    Jul 14, 2011 @ 20:56:41

    This sounds like a fun book. Mysteries have been one of my favs since I was a kid.


  3. barbarabockman
    Jul 15, 2011 @ 00:18:12

    Hi J. Aday and CC,

    If you know any middle grade-age kids, this would be a good book to recommend.

    Thanks for dropping by.


  4. Nancy Stewart
    Jul 16, 2011 @ 08:55:22

    This really does look good. You’ve done such a good job with this post. Makes me want to read it!


  5. barbarabockman
    Jul 16, 2011 @ 13:13:54

    I enjoyed it. Of course, you know, kid lit is my favorite.


  6. Karen Cioffi
    Jul 17, 2011 @ 17:57:38

    Great review, Barbara. I love the MC’s last name, Coffin; so fitting for a mystery book.


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