The Best Mistake Mystery by Sylvia McNicoll

By Ekta R. Garg

February 22, 2017

Genre: Middle grade mystery

Rated: Borrow it / 3 stars

A teenage dogwalker becomes the target of a threat after mysterious events at his school. He’ll have to figure out who’s sending him threatening texts and also how to help his classmate if he wants his routine to return to normal. Author Sylvia McNicoll gives middle grade readers a straightforward mystery in the fairly likeable novel The Best Mistake Mystery.

Seventh grader Stephen Nobel misses his best friend, but after Jessie moves away during the summer Stephen knows he has to navigate the new school year alone. His trick of counting his mistakes during the day helps but only a little. His nerdy classmate, Renee, decides they’re friends now, but Stephen does his best to avoid her.

Avoiding Renee becomes next to impossible, however, when the fire alarm goes off at school. She stays close to Stephen as they all file out, and soon enough Stephen figures out the alarm wasn’t a drill. Things start to get really tricky when a bomb squad shows up at the school and “detonates” a backpack, which means school gets out for the day. Because Renee doesn’t want to go home alone, she tags along.

Stephen takes the opportunity to walk his new canine clients, Ping and Pong, but the news from school only becomes more complicated in the days that follow. Someone drives a car into the school, and the principal’s wedding dress gets stolen.

The problems become personal when Renee reveals that the police have begun to investigate her brother as a person of interest in the incident at the school with the car. Then someone dognaps one of Stephen’s clients. He’ll have to rely on Renee and his own wits in order to figure out what’s happening before something else bad happens.

Author Sylvia McNicoll creates a fairly relatable character in Stephen. He deals with many of the same issues that today’s middle schoolers tackle, and target readers will identify with Stephen. McNicoll also creates awareness of social anxiety in a subtle way, introducing it in an accessible way to readers unfamiliar with concept.

Less subtle is the way McNicoll presents the mystery itself. Despite the attempts at misdirection and inserting red herrings, the mystery unfolds in a fairly obvious manner. Readers who enjoy the enigmatic progression of a good mystery may find this book a little lacking. The novel is more suited for reluctant readers who might need a little encouragement to get through a book. The easy clues will help them enjoy the payoff of a good mystery.

I recommend readers Borrow The Best Mistake Mystery.