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Harriet Bean and the League of Cheats    by Alexander McCall Smith & Laura Rankin order for
Harriet Bean and the League of Cheats
by Alexander McCall Smith
Order:  USA  Can
Knopf, 2006 (2006)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

In the first in the series, nine-year-old Harriet Bean learned from her absentminded inventor father Harold that she had five aunts and set out, with great determination, to find them. Now, with the family reunited, Harriet's mind-reading twin detective aunts (Japonica and Thessalonika) phone to say they need her help with a case.

The twins are experts at disguises and have powers of observation that resemble those of Sherlock Holmes. They enlist Harriet's help in catching 'wicked cheats' at the racetrack, asking her to pose as Harry the jockey. She sleeps in a stable next to a horse, Black Lightning. She sees someone (at least she sees their boots) sabotaging the horse. Which of her fellow jockeys (Ted and Ed and Fred) did it and why?

Though the cheater unmasks her, Harriet cleverly turns the tables and learns of the existence of a League of Cheats. An accidental spill introduces Harry to the organization's big boss, who boasts of cheating in all kinds of venues - running and jumping competitions, dog, cat and quiz shows.

Of course, Harriet exposes the villain with help from Japonica and Thessalonika in a surprising disguise. What will Harriet and her talented aunts get up to next? I can't wait to find out in the next witty Harriet Bean adventure.

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