Really Truly: 08/04/22
Really Truly by Heather Vogel Frederick (2020) is the third mystery in the middle grade Pumpkin Falls series. Truly Lovejoy is planning the perfect summer for what's left after the family reunion. Unfortunately her plans are dashed when her cousin gets her invited to a mermaid academy summer camp.
This third volume took me by surprise a bunch of times. First and foremost because I didn't read the blurb before I put the book on hold at my library. I so enjoyed the previous two that I didn't even stop to consider any other outcome beyond enjoyment! Surprises for me were the mermaid camp, the pirate treasure plot, and the ultimate solution to the mystery of the missing pumpkin.
Mysteries typically don't leave the location of the crime. For a mystery series to be set in another location the main character or the ensemble cast of characters (as is often the case) need a reason to be traveling together and then the crime happens in this new location. Solving the crime becomes a necessity for the character(s) to be able to either go home or continue on their trip. This trope remains true despite twenty years of cellphones and the growing ubiquity of the internet.
That said, the Pumpkin Falls books have never been typical mysteries, though the first and second books were set entirely within the village, thus sticking to the no changing location trope. This one, though, takes advantage of the fact that it's also a middle grade novel which has its own tropes and expectations. One of those is that adults can and do frequently disrupt the plans of the teenaged protagonist.
So while Truly and her cousin spend about half of the book in Cape Cod at the mermaid academy, Truly's friends back home continue to investigate the missing silver pumpkin and report back via text and FaceTime.
This long tangential mermaid plot gives the novel time to work in the threads of a much more interesting and difficult to solve mystery, namely the missing treasure of a ship that sank off the coast of Cape Cod. This historic mystery which involves a man accused of piracy is similar to the Gentleman George side plot from Sugar and Vice by Eve Calder (2020).
Also at the mermaid camp, there are long descriptions of the career of Esther Williams, an actress who was known for her diving and synchronized swimming skills. After Truly describes watching Million Dollar Mermaid (1952), I literally set aside the novel to rewatch the film, which was a fun diversion!
I don't know if there will be fourth book in this series. There's enough left open in the overall plot to have more mysteries. I certainly hope so!