Fifteen-year-old Iris Anderson is having a hard time. About a year ago, her Pop returned from Pearl Harbor with a missing leg, which meant he was no longer able to do the active work required by his business as a private investigator. As a result, Pop and Iris have moved from their old affluent neighborhood to a poor area on the Lower East Side, and Iris has to go to public school instead of the elite private school she formerly attended. Hoping to get closer to her only surviving parent (her mother committed suicide shortly after Pop returned from the war), Iris tries to help Pop with his cases, but he forbids her from having anything to do with the PI business. When one of the boys at Iris’ new school goes missing, however, she can’t help but do a little sleuthing. Along the way, she makes a few friends at her new school, including the unpopular Pearl and the glamorous, fast-talking Suze; but as Iris navigates her way through various cliques and social minefields, how will she know whom she can really trust?
If you enjoy Haines’ Rosie Winter mysteries, you’ll feel right at home in the world of this novel, set in the fall of 1942. The book isn’t about World War II, yet the war permeates almost every aspect of Iris’ life, from the slang used by Suze and the other cool girls at school to the disturbing racisim and anti-Semitism espoused by some of the characters. (These attitudes are definitely not condoned by the book, however; they simply mirror the atttitudes of many Americans at that time.) I liked Iris as a protagonist; her problems are specific to her era yet also universal, as she struggles with her own identity, fitting in, and building a relationship with a distant parent. Her voice is occasionally too precocious for a 15-year-old, but I found that flaw forgivable since she’s so entertaining. As a mystery, the book is very weak; Iris doesn’t spend much time investigating anything, and she’s not even the one who solves the case! So I’d recommend this to someone looking for an interesting YA book about World War II, but it’s not a great read for a mystery fan.