I really enjoy time-slip novels–where two stories are told, one in the past, one in the present, alternating chapters. So I was glad to find this middle-grade mystery novel with time-slip, published in 2018. Also, it focuses on race issues, a topic dear to my heart. In fact, it’s written by an African-American about African-Americans.

Twelve-year-old Candice, new in the small town of Lambert, SC, is happy to discover a letter left her by her eccentric grandma. The letter gives her a puzzle to solve, a puzzle that had stumped Grandma. The letter promises riches for the puzzle solver and for the town of Lambert, so naturally she recruits a new friend, Brandon, and tries to figure it out.

It has to do with a racial incident in 1957 and how various townspeople respond to the new circumstances they eventually find themselves in. Bad things are done and said, and regrets abound. Eventually a rich man wants to make amends, and he devises the puzzle. But who is he?

Grandma thought the puzzle involved something buried under a tennis court, and her excavation yielded nothing but ridicule. If an adult couldn’t solve it, will Candice and Brandon be able to figure it out?

And, in the parallel historical story, what happens when two teenage boys both love a teenage girl ? Especially in a Southern town, when race intrudes: one of the boys is white? This story is gripping, especially for an adult reader. I am not sure what a middle-grader might think of it.

I really enjoyed this sprawling book. It has plenty of food for thought. I’ll give it four stars * * * *.

Short Story by Phyllis Wheeler

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