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The Mystery of the Third Lucretia    by Susan Runholt Amazon.com order for
Mystery of the Third Lucretia
by Susan Runholt
Order:  USA  Can
Penguin, 2009 (2008)
Hardcover, Softcover, CD

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* * *   Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto

When I was a tween, mystery was my absolute favorite genre. I devoured every mystery I could get my hands on, especially The Nancy Drew Casefiles and the Nancy Drew & Hardy Boys Supermysteries. While I always loved those books, I never found them very realistic, and that seems to be true for most of the genre. The start of Susan Runholt's new mystery series changes my opinion. Yes, I have learned through life that a mystery is not just going to appear out of nowhere and there is no way a regular old kid could solve one, so that part is still unrealistic, but where the realism comes from in The Mystery of the Third Lucretia is the characters and the consequences they face.

While visiting the art museum in Minneapolis one day, Kari Sundgren and her best friend, Lucas Stickney, observe a gentleman studiously painting in front of the Rembrandt's two Lucretia paintings, one of which is on tour. They would not have thought anything of it if he had not yelled at Kari when she tried to see what he was painting. Almost a year later, the two girls are spending Spring Break in London while Kari's mom works on a few articles for the trendy teen mag, The Scene. While visiting a museum there, they happen to find the same guy in the Rembrandt room, once again studiously painting and yelling at anyone who gets too close but this time, he is in disguise. Intrigued, the two decide he must be doing something illegal and hatch a plan to catch a glimpse of what he is doing. They get more than they bargain for when they end up the target of an art forger, putting both their own lives, and that of Kari's mom, on the line.

As I mentioned above, the premise of The Mystery of the Third Lucretia might not be totally realistic, but it sure is entertaining. Runholt's relaxed storytelling style (through Kari's viewpoint) is a joy to read and really speaks to the audience. Also, Kari, Lucas, and her mother seem incredibly real. Kari's mom is not dumb - she figures out the two girls are up to something, and doles out punishments as needed. Kari's concerns for what she and Lucas are doing are exactly what I always think while reading a YA mystery, making the situations the two girls find themselves in seem even more plausible and heart-pounding.

I am really happy that The Mystery of the Third Lucretia is the start of a new mystery series featuring Kari and Lucas. Although the epilogue of this book wrapped everything up nice and tidy, except for the girls wishing for another adventure on the last page. Even so, I will eagerly await the next story as Susan Runholt has proved she knows how to write a great YA mystery.

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