The Mutual Admiration Society by Lesley Kagen
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Genre: Historical (1950s), Mystery, Young Adult
Length: Full (294 pgs)
Age recommendation: 12+
Rating: 4 Stars
Review by: Stephanotis
FACT: Unbeknownst to eleven-year-old Theresa “Tessie” Finley, she’s in over her head.
PROOF: After hearing a scream and catching a glimpse of a mysterious man carrying a body beneath the flickering streetlights in the cemetery behind her house, Tessie adds solving a murder case to her already quite full to-do list.
Tessie has elected herself president of the crime-stopping Mutual Admiration Society—as if dealing with her “sad madness” over the tragic drowning of her beloved father; showering tender loving care on her “sweet but weird” younger sister, Birdie; and staying on the good side of their hard-edged mother weren’t enough. With partner in crime Charlie “Cue Ball” Garfield, Tessie and Birdie will need to dodge the gossips in their 1950s blue-collar neighborhood—particularly their evil next-door neighbor, Gert Klement, who’d like nothing better than to send the sisters to “homes.” And, of course, there’s the problem of steering clear of the kidnapping murderer if they have any hope of solving the mystery of all mysteries: the mystery of life.
A rich and charming tour de force, The Mutual Admiration Society showcases Lesley Kagen’s marvelous storytelling talents. Laced with heartwarming humor and heartbreaking grief, this novel is nothing short of magical.
How can I categorize this novel? I don’t think I can because it’s part Nancy Drew-like mystery, part family drama, and yes, it’s lots of fun to read.
The first thing I liked about this book was its main character and narrator Tessie Finley. She’s a likeable young girl who’s lost her father, doesn’t have the best relationship with her mother but along with her sister, Birdie, she’s making the most of it. She’s quirky, funny, sometimes adorable and when she thinks she’s seen a murder, she turns amateur detective. Along with her sister they set out to solve the crime, form the Mutual Admiration Society, and that’s when the fun really begins.
The book is set in 1959 which I think was perfect for the story and setting. I loved Tessie’s use of lists and the fact and proof entries as she tries to solve the crime. Her voice comes across strong in this story and some of the dialogue has you laughing out loud.
I’d say that not only will young adults enjoy this story but adults too. I haven’t read anything else written by this author but this first introduction to her work has made me want to check out some other titles. If you’re looking for a quirky mystery with some family drama thrown in, this is probably one you’d enjoy.