Thursday, February 13, 2014

Blind Speed Dating #9 (MG)

Genre: Upper Middle Grade Mystery
Word Count: 67,000


Every bone in fourteen-year-old Kirby McKay’s body aches to solve the murder that destroyed her father’s reputation, turned her into an object of pity, and saddled the town’s prominent new school with the nickname Halloween High. Unfortunately, her father doesn't agree. “Leave it alone,” he warns, and Kirby tries, but she can’t help investigating a strange light that appears behind the school’s dark door on Halloween night. 

Kirby’s search through shadowy halls leads her to the third floor where she finds the body of a man lying near a bloody brick. The police clear Kirby of the man’s death, but much of the student body isn't convinced. Two murders, each discovered by a McKay, seem a bit much to forgive and forget. Quickly becoming the campus pariah, Kirby longs to clear her name and her father's, but is reluctant to betray his trust again. Finally, when anonymous signs appear around the school with vicious accusations against her, Kirby decides she must uncover the truth. 

Helped by a small group of friends, a sympathetic Latin teacher, and three slightly eccentric aunts, Kirby manages to search the school and a couple of city offices before her prime suspect dies in a car crash. Her friends think justice has been served, but Kirby still has doubts. One piece of the puzzle doesn't quite fit, and figuring it out may cost Kirby her life.

Halloween High is a cozy mystery aimed at that relatively ignored group of upper middle grade readers who want a taste of high school but aren't ready for a young adult voice.

I have a bachelor’s degree in English and am a debut author. I belong to SCBWI and am active on the Verla Kay Blue Boards, which has, of course, now merged with SCBWI.

First 250:

It was bad enough our new school’s colors were orange and black, its mascot was a raven, and it was dedicated on October 31st, but when Mr. McKay discovered the body of a student on the third floor landing, there was just no way our town’s new school was going to escape the nickname Halloween High.

Mr. McKay was my father – my rose-planting, hot-chocolate making father. He had been the first principal of Halloween High and finding that dead student ruined his career. Now, nine years later, here I was, Kirby McKay, freshly minted eighth grade graduate and Mr. McKay’s daughter, bumping and shuffling my way across Halloween High’s school seal in a crowd of elbows and knobby knees. We were waiting our turn to enter the auditorium for a rededication assembly – the school board’s latest attempt to get the students and staff, in fact, the whole city, to use the school’s proper name, Spurgeon High.

Everyone knew the school board hated our nickname.  Over the years, it had waged periodic campaigns in the newspapers and on the radio to get people to use the high school’s proper name, but nothing had worked. One of the school board members, Mrs. Tucker, had even convinced the city to put a billboard up near the center of town with a big picture of Halloween High on it and a short poem:

Our high school is a noble place,

Full of beauty, full of grace.

A student body, smart and spry,

We hail thee, Spurgeon High. 

What was the school board thinking!?      

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