Suzanna knows what happened in the midnight tunnel, so why won’t anyone believe her?
Suzanna “Zanna” Snow has sleuthing in her blood. With the famous Bostonian detective, Bruce Snow, as her uncle, she knows she has more than just a pinch of investigative talent. But nothing out of the ordinary ever happens in the sleepy coastal town of Loch Harbor, New Brunswick. Instead of sharpening her detective skills, she’s stuck serving tea and learning how to be a “proper lady” at the Rosemount, an exclusive summer hotel under her parents’ impeccable management.
Everything changes one night during a thunderstorm, when one of the hotel guests, a young girl, goes missing. Zanna is certain she has clues that lead to the girl, but only her friends, Lucy and Isaac, believe her. When detective Bruce Snow is called in, Zanna sees her chance to help solve the case. But everything is not what it seems, and as the mystery thickens, Zanna begins to suspect another crime is unfolding. And if her instincts prove correct, she’s sleuthed her way into a grave amount of danger.
The Midnight Tunnel is a solid, thoroughly enjoyable mystery, top to bottom.
Let’s face it – with Middle Grade mysteries, all too often the whodunit is, well, painfully obvious, or at the very least the author feels the need to point out important clues in neon flashing lights – HERE, THIS IS IMPORTANT! OVER HERE! Honestly when I pick up a Middle Grade mystery, I tend to brace myself for rampant predictability, just out of self defense – but happily, it was entirely unwarranted in this case. The Midnight Tunnel is not the sort of book that feels the need to hit you over the head with its plot points – instead Frazier deftly and quietly builds her web of clues, weaving together the bits and pieces in a manner that fully expects you to pay attention. And you can’t help but pay attention, because it is so interesting to watch – and your attention will be well rewarded, time and again. What a joy it is to read a story that trusts the reader to keep up, instead of spelling it all out for you.
Watching Zanna, our heroine, go about her sleuthing is a ridiculous amount of fun. A pre-teen armed with a notebook and her mind, she scribbles down everything that catches her eye – and I massively enjoyed the many ways in which all those little details paid off throughout her investigation. Zanna is just a delightfully real character – she’s smart, but not infallible (she makes plenty of mistakes). She’ll forget to remember to stir the soup, but she can’t help but pay attention to which guests’ lights are left on late at night – and she is of course utterly horrified when her mother sends her up to bed, like she’s a little girl. Frazier just nails that frustration of being young and constantly made to dance to everyone else’s tune – and I absolutely loved the utterly plausible ways in which the adults discount what Zanna has seen, just because she’s a kid.
I also loved how Frazier blended Zanna’s naivete with her intelligence – she trusts, sometimes blindly, and is undeniably young, but she’s no fool. Watching Zanna slowly come to realize how much she doesn’t know about the people she knows so well is absolutely wonderful.
A resort setting often feels like a place from another time all on its own, but this story does sow in little details to remind us that this is not the present day – from telephone operators to a very firm sense of class, this book has a nice, authentic period flavor to it.
Really the only thing I can say against this story is that it starts out in very deliberate fashion – and when a story takes the time to set the stage, it does create something of a lull. Once the mystery kicks into gear, the plot gallops forward and the stakes come into play, but the opening sequence requires just a bit of patience. But it’s well worth it, I promise you.
In terms of plotting, I did cotton on to the culprit before the final reveal, but I never truly got ahead of the story. The mystery tracks well, and I have no real complaints – but in the end I did find myself wistfully thinking that a red herring or two might have been nice. It felt just a hair too straightforward – I wanted just a few more snarls to unravel – but that might just be proof that I’ve read too much Agatha Christie.
With a myriad of well placed clues, a picturesque setting, and oodles of old school sleuthing, The Midnight Tunnel is a tight, smart and satisfying mystery. I am very much looking forward to the next Suzanna Snow investigation.
Byrt Grade: A-
As Levar Burton used to say – you don’t have to take my word for it…
What Zanna lacks in grace and composure, she makes up for in pluck, persistence and cleverness, emerging a likely and likable Edwardian Nancy Drew.
I am not an expert on Middle Grade fiction, but Suzanna Snow definitely ranks as one of my favorite novels of the type. My one complaint about it was that I really wanted more. Having to wait for the next book is going to be upsetting. Historical accuracy (from what I could tell), fun sleuthing, an intelligent protagonist, and some great moments of reality made this a book I am armed to recommend to teachers and those with mystery loving children.
If I’d read it as a nine or ten-year-old, I would have spent a lot of time fantasizing about being Zanna myself, forcing the adults around me to grant me their respect through my feats of intelligence and bravery. And as an adult, I love Zanna so much for that same intelligence and courage, which make her such a fabulous heroine for any age.