Susan Runholt's debut teen novel, The Mystery of the Third Lucretia was the runner-up for the Debut Dagger Award by the Crime Writers' Association of Great Britain. The first book in the Kari & Lucas Mystery series takes the two teens from St. Paul, Minnesota to London, Paris and Amsterdam. As Kari's mother says, "This is the story of how two teenagers from Minnesota lived a tale of adventure involving a woman from ancient Rome, a seventeenth-century painter, forgery and murder, abduction and rescue, disguises and deductions, two continents, three museums, four countries, a criminal hideaway, and two nuns from Amsterdam's famous Quarter."
Kari Sundgren tells the story of the adventures she and her best friend, Lucas Stickney have as they uncover an international art crime. The two girls met while taking art classes at the age of ten. Four years later, that interest took them back to the Minneapolis Institute of Art to see the exhibit of both of Rembrandt's paintings of Lucretia. It was there they noticed the man they called "Gallery Guy", in an incident that triggered there adventures. If he hadn't snarled at Kari, they might not have remembered him when they saw him again at an exhibit in London.
Kari's mother, Gillian, worked for a magazine, one that allowed her to travel occasionally, taking the two girls with her. When the two girls discovered "Gallery Guy", they spied on him, until they were convinced there was something fishy about the man. Their activities may have gotten them in trouble with Kari's mother, but, when a third "Lucretia" painting was "found", even Gillian had to admit the girls were on to something.
Runholt's debut mystery is a sophisticated story of two fourteen-year-old girls who love art, and decide to play detective. The teens are knowledgeable about art, and quickly learn how to get around museums and European cities on their own. The information about the museums, tourist sites, and Rembrandt's art is fascinating. Runholt expects her audience to be sophisticated enough to appreciate the art, and understand the information about the runaways and prostitutes in Amsterdam. At the same time, her line, "what a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad night it had been" is a tribute to a favorite childhood book that her readers might remember, Judith Viorst's Alexander, and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Runholt shows a great deal of respect for her readers' knowledge while taking the teens into a dangerous, high-stakes adventure. It's a terrific mystery for the sophisticated young teen reader.
And, just because I was interested, here's Rembrandt's Lucretia.
Susan Runholt's website is www.susanrunholt.com
The Mystery of the Third Lucretia by Susan Runholt. Penguin Group (USA), 2009. ISBN 9780142413388 (paperback), 304p.
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