Charlotte Grote has won renown for her crime-solving skills, but now she’s aging out of the child detective category. But before she heads off to college and her plans to become a regular adult detective, she has one last hurrah: the magazine National Solver has nominated her for “Teen Detective of the Year (16-18),” and the awards ceremony will take place at a fancy hotel full of brilliant young minds from all over the world.

Lottie is thrilled to meet her counterparts from around the globe and finally get some recognition… until she is framed for the murder of one of the adult sleuths! She agrees to work with the police to clear her name, but it won’t be easy. And the real killer is still on the loose.

Wicked Things is set in the same world as John Allison’s Giant Days and Bad Machinery series, each of which include Lottie as a character. Here she is aged up a bit, and has a record of successful detective work. She is quirky, melodramatic, and often humorously oblivious to danger. Working with the police, she finds herself paired with a capable, no-nonsense detective who finds that Lottie strains his patience, especially when she keeps turning out to be right. In the meantime, her friend Claire starts her own unofficial investigation into the crime that someone is trying to pin on Lottie.

That said, we don’t actually see a lot of detecting taking place in this story. Lottie has hunches and takes mental leaps that end up being startlingly accurate. Unlike Sherlock Holmes, she does not then explain all the clues that led to her conclusion, so it sometimes feels like she just guessed and got lucky. Her friend Claire actually seems more methodical, despite not being the award-nominated child detective of the duo.

The art is active, with characters whose faces and postures stretch and squish into humorously exaggerated expressions. Each character has a unique appearance, including an individual style of dress and body language. The backgrounds are rich with detail, but not distracting. The palette is just on the colorful side of realistic, with the background colors helping to set the mood as well as make setting and scene changes clear right away.

There is a certain amount of crime in this book, including a small amount of violence and peril. Much of this is treated in a less-than-serious way, as when Lottie complains that being taken hostage is “hurtful.” The only real harm done is to the detective Lottie is accused of murdering, and that attack happens off-camera, so to speak.

Collecting issues 1 through 6 of Wicked Things, this volume stands alone but does have something of an unresolved ending. It packs in lots of humor, but not as much mystery-solving as readers might expect from a book with a sleuth protagonist. Fans of Goldie Vance may enjoy another peppy teen girl detective, though Lottie is older and considerably weirder than Goldie, and the mysteries she investigates are a bit more dangerous. Hand it to fans of Giant Days or Bad Machinery, and to readers who like snarky humor.

Wicked Things
By John Allison
Art by Max Sarin
Boom! Box, 2021
ISBN: 9781684156061

NFNT Age Recommendation: Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16)
Creator Representation: British
Character Representation: British

  • Nic

    | She/Her Youth Services Librarian, Wake County Public Libraries

    Reviewer

    The child of two artists, Nic grew up loving art, reading, and those oh-so-special books that combine the two. Nic got her MLS from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her thesis was on the best shelving scheme for graphic novels in public libraries; the proposal won an Elfreda Chatman Research Award. She spends her free time reading, drawing, blogging, and writing fiction. She is a Youth Services Librarian at the Wake County Public Libraries in Raleigh, NC.

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