In Newberry Honor winner Margi Preus’ latest installment of the young-adult Enchantment Lake Mystery series, The Clue in the Trees, we rejoin high school senior Francie as she unravels yet another thrilling murder set against the backdrop of a charming Minnesota lake town.
Francie is tired of being called Nancy Drew and ready to be a normal high schooler after her sleuthing escapades (a.k.a. solving a murder and stumbling across buried mastodon bones) in the first novel of the series. However, when her brother Theo shows up without explanation and the night before her first day of school turns into a high stakes pursuit, Francie realizes she might need to do some sleuthing in her own family. An archaeology-themed murder, an emotionally poignant rendition of Antigone, and maple syrup await Francie and her new friends this fall at Enchantment Lake.
Preus’ novel does what a good young-adult mystery should: it intrigues the reader from the first page, drawing you in through dynamic action sequences and teasingly protective dialogue. “Things are not always what they seem,” the enigmatic drama teacher, Mr. Redburn, says to Francie—and this idea is what makes The Clue in the Trees especially compelling. After stringing the reader along red herring after red herring, when Preus finally unmasks the culprit, you are guaranteed to feel satisfied.
As a Minnesotan, Preus also draws attention to broader issues such as Native rights, global warming, and crude oil pipelines. It is this attention to the political—and the necessity of sensitizing young people to these issues—that sets The Clue in the Trees apart from a run-of-the-mill young-adult murder mystery.
Preus handles socio-political issues and the page-turning narrative with grace, balancing murder with humor and suspense with peaceful lakeside imagery. After The Clue in the Trees, readers will surely be ready to join Francie on her next adventure—Hannah Schultz