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Sisterhood of Sleuths by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman 

With mystery, family, friendships, and secrets, SISTERHOOD OF SLEUTHS has something for everyone. 

Maizy Turner is helping her mom at her antique and thrift store one morning when they discover someone has left a box of old Nancy Drew books at their front door. There’s no name on the box, but when Maizy finds an old photograph of her grandmother, Jacuzzi, with two other women inside, they decide she must have dropped them off. Maizy’s mom is annoyed. Jacuzzi is supposed to be recuperating from a fractured foot, not driving, and the books were a sore point between the two: Jacuzzi had LOVED the Nancy Drew series but could never raise interest in her daughter. And besides, Jacuzzi knew the store didn’t handle used books! That night when returning the books to her grandmother, Maizy asks her about the photograph, but Jacuzzi claims it’s not her in the picture and denies any knowledge of it or the other women. However, her odd reaction tells Maizy she’s lying, and there’s a story behind the picture that she must uncover. 

Maizy has been best friends with Izzy forever, but while working on their school project, Shellfish Holmes, a film about a lobster detective, Izzy seems more interested in Link and Ben, two boys in their class, than working. Maizy doesn’t know it yet, but Izzy (who only wants to be called Isabelle now) is changing and, along with her, their friendship. One minute Izzy is the sweet happy girl Maizy shared all her secrets and dreams with, and the next, she’s “Isabelle,” snapping at her to ‘grow up’ and doing it in front of other people. 

When Izzy brings Link and Ben into their almost completed project, Maizy is lukewarm about the idea but goes along. Maizy has done all the work on the screenplay herself. But when Izzy sides with the boys to completely change it at this late stage and allows them to take credit for the idea with their teacher, Maizy decides enough is enough and withdraws from the group altogether. Partnering up with Nell, a friend from her past, and Cam, a new friend from class, Maizy realizes she’s got a perfect substitute project staring her right in the face. What is the tie between Jacuzzi’s mysterious photograph and the box of Nancy Drew books? And having enjoyed one of the books from the box herself, what is behind the enduring popularity of the Nancy Drew series? 

Sisterhood of Sleuths is an entertaining middle-grade novel featuring both a mystery and the effects of growing up on friendships. It feels like the main character, Maizy, is faced with change from all sides: at school with her best friend, Izzy, at home with her older brother leaving for his first year at college, and even in her relationship with her beloved Jacuzzi who is definitely keeping secrets.

The author subtly portrays how individuals mature at different rates, with their interests evolving along the way. She shows how friendships also change over time. For some, the changes are gradual and gentle but leave others, sometimes, sorrowful and bereft. I loved how that theme was developed to include the three generations of women in Maizy’s family, how those relationships were damaged, and how they are eventually resolved. 

I felt the Nancy Drew plotline was brilliant: how it connected the generations and the actual history of the series, its beginnings, the revisions of the 50s, and Mildred Wirt Benson’s entire story. I particularly liked the parallels Maizy could draw between herself and Benson’s experiences. 

With its emphasis on friendships, especially at the middle-school age range, the mystery of Jacuzzi’s old photo, Cam’s rejection of stereotypically feminine dress and assignments, and the sprinkling of that unique style of middle-school boy humor from Link and Ben in the school project, the story has a little something for everyone. I recommend SISTERHOOD OF SLEUTHS to middle-grade fiction readers, especially those who enjoy the Nancy Drew series and those experiencing changes in their childhood friendships. 

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author or publisher through NetGalley and TBR and Beyond Book Tours.

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