MMGM is a weekly meme hosted by middle grade author, Shannon Messenger.
This is a fun chance for me to review a book that hasn’t been published yet. Jessica Haight and Stephanie Robinson run a popular blog that goes by the same name as their book. After keeping in touch for a year or so, I decided to read The Secret DMS Files of Fairday Marrow over Spring Break. I rarely volunteer for something like this with friends, virtual or not, because of the high pressure to give a good review, but I was curious. And I’ve been impressed by the creativity and professional quality of their blog, so I took a chance. I figured I didn’t have to post my review if I didn’t like the book.
I’m posting. 🙂
Jessica and Stephanie have written a really fun middle grade mystery. Honestly, the story didn’t draw me in until I was about one third of the way through. The prose reads clearly and precisely, but it feels just a little plain. For example, “Fairday was ecstatic that they were having chicken cordon bleu for dinner.” There are lots of other ways to communicate that excitement aside from narration. It’s also a little heavy on the adverbs, and the dialogue doesn’t have the snappy drive of an experienced writer. At the risk of sounding snobbish (I really don’t mean to!), reading this one reminded me very much of when I reread my own first novel several years after writing it.
**Note: After sending this review to the authors, they mentioned that they were in the midst of a revision with dialogue and adverbs among the offenders on their hit list. That’s awesome! I love to hear of writers practicing, stretching, improving their skills.
However (and that’s a big however), I got caught up in the story anyway. Because these two ladies came up with a real humdinger of a tale!
Eleven-year-old Fairday Morrow (love the name!) has moved to the Begonia House, a huge, creepy old place with lots of local legends surrounding it. Years before, an old man died mysteriously at the foot of a high balcony. Homicide had not been ruled out. And twenty years before that, the same man’s daughter suddenly went missing in the house the day of her wedding. But Fairday doesn’t know all these details when she sets about investigating the contents of an upper room. For you see, Fairday heads up a detective agency (the DMS—detective mystery squad) with her best friend Lizzy. And the upper room is laden with mystery.
Where is the strange bagpipe music coming from? What was that glimpse of red shoes in the mirror? What does the brass key open? And how did Fairday’s baby sister get inside the mirror?! Join Fairday, Lizzy, and their new friend Brocket the Rocket as they uncover the answers and tie them into the house’s perplexing past.
This one is full of imagination and kid-pleasing details. The drawings above each chapter heading, while not professional, are nicely stylized and add a pleasing element to the tale (see the cover image). It’s clean aside from a few omg’s and one minor profanity. If you like an entertaining mystery, this one is worth picking up. I’ll be watching to see if it goes to print. Meanwhile, they freely give away copies to reviewers.