The Girl from Felony Bay, by J. E. Thompson, was published in 2003 by HarperCollins.
I’m not going to lie to you, the last year has been rougher than alligator hide for me and my dad. You see, he’s in the hospital in a coma since his accident a year back, wherein he was framed for a terrible crime he didn’t commit. Our home, Reward Plantation, had to be sold to pay off his debt to society, so I’m stuck living with my Uncle Charlie, who, even in the few hours a day when he’s sober, ain’t exactly your ideal parental role model. And I managed to run afoul of Jimmy Simmons, the meanest kid in the sixth grade, and on the last day of school no less. But things just got a bit more interesting. Turns out the new family that moved into Reward Plantation has a daughter named Bee, who is the same age as I am. And she’s just as curious about all the No Trespassing signs and holes being dug out by Felony Bay, in the corner of what used to be my home. Seems like someone’s been poking around a mystery that dates all the way back to the Civil War—and it just might be the same someone who framed my dad. I’m Abbey, by the way. Abbey Force. And if it takes all summer, I’m going to find out what’s happening out on Felony Bay, and maybe even clear my dad’s name.
The Girl from Felony Bay has lots of things I’m not fond of in middle grade books in general and mysteries in particular. The protagonist, Abbey, is decent enough, though she makes one too many “puzzle piece mystery” guesses for my liking, as well as ends the book with five pages of moralizing and “these are the lessons I learned” summation. I also didn’t much like the scene at the end where she gives the usual “whodunit” spiel and then all the police officers applaud her, literally, and mention how incredibly smart and wonderful she is. It’s clunky and awkward and the reader really didn’t need the reminder that Abbey can solve things quickly, since that’s what she spends the entire book doing.
I did like how Thompson brought up the idea of heir’s property, though I’m not sure how well he incorporates it into the mystery as a whole. I suppose it was relevant in the sense that it got Abbey and Bee wondering about why the property had been sold in the first place.
As for the mystery itself, it was pretty far-fetched, in my opinion, or perhaps that was simply a problem with the delivery of it. The writing really wasn’t the best. The characterization also didn’t help, with the villains being bland and one-note and their machinations unbelievable. The whole thing was simply clunky and poorly executed and developed.
The Girl From Felony Bay was pretty much a disappointment from start to finish. The mystery was slapdash and unbelievable, Abbey spent her time wavering between Action Girl and Brilliant Detective Girl, with awkward conversations from the adults around her interspersed, and the whole thing was simply far too sloppy and mediocre for me to enjoy it. The cover art, at least, is cool and intriguing (Brett Helquist!), but nothing else about the book is.