Review of The Peacock Detectives

The Peacock Detectives
by Carly Nugent
Intermediate, Middle School    Harper/HarperCollins    282 pp.
1/20    978-0-06-289670-4    $16.99
e-book ed.  978-0-06-289672-8    $7.99

Cassie is enlisted by her neighbors to find their missing peacocks — again — because of her skill at noticing details. But there are plenty of other things for the Australian almost-twelve-year-old aspiring writer to notice, and the story Cassie narrates ends up taking a broader focus, encompassing her parents’ separation, her grandfather’s illness, her older sister’s embrace of Buddhism, and her father’s and her own mental health (like Cassie, he struggles with depression). When Cassie’s best friend runs away, it’s Cassie who figures out where to follow him, but she is surprised to encounter the school bully, who’s also running away from home, along the way. Readers observe Cassie’s world along with her; her narration makes clear that she doesn’t always understand what’s happening but sees enough to know when secrets are being kept from her (though references, in her often-funny voice, to the story elements she’s employing show her trying to feel in control: “In this story I’m going to try to give you enough details so that you can understand, but not so many that you get bored and stop reading and go to the park or the zoo instead”). The lost peacocks are secondary; friendship and family come first, making this detective story a good choice for any realistic fiction fan, mystery lover or not.

From the March/April 2020 Horn Book Magazine.

Shoshana Flax
Shoshana Flax

Shoshana Flax, assistant editor of The Horn Book Magazine, is a former bookseller and holds an MFA in Writing for Children from Simmons University. She was a 2019-2020 member of the Sydney Taylor Book Award committee.

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