Mr. Samuel's Penny: An Elizabeth Parrot Landers Mystery
By: Treva Hall Melvin
Publisher: The Poisoned Pencil
Publication Date: November 2014
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: December 9, 2014
Treva Hall Melvin spins a delightful tale through the eyes and adventures of fourteen-year-old Elizabeth ('Lizbeth) Landers one particular summer in the sleepy, southern town of Ahoskie, North Carolina.
It is the summer of 1972 and just like the summer before and the one before that, fourteen-year-old Elizabeth ('Lizbeth) Landers and her younger sister, Lena, have arrived to spend it with their Auntie Alice and Uncle Frank. Nothing much ever happens in Ahoskie that would cause reason to raise one's eyebrows. This is, until Joseph Samuel drives his car off the bridge and into the Ahoskie River; with his baby girl, Emma, in the back seat...
'Lizbeth is a precocious fourteen-year-old New York city girl. When her family moved to the City, they determined Ahoskie and the southern comforts of Auntie Alice and Uncle Frank was a more befitting setting for 'Lizbeth and her sister Lena to wile away the long and lazy days of summer. 'Lizbeth has an interesting hobby. She collects pennies - not just any pennies, but wheat pennies. The coveted and grand master of them all is the rare 1909 Lincoln wheat penny and it just so happens that when Samuel's lifeless body is raised from the churning waters of the river, he is clutching such a rarity. Samuel has left a trail of unanswered questions in his passing: Was the 'accident' really an accident? What will become of his beloved wife, Violet? What about his lumber yard business? Will his brother Benjamin carry on the legacy? Then there's cantankerous "Ms. McMeanie" - like a dog with a bone and the 'bone' is the lumber yard business she's convinced should be hers. Indeed, the summer of '72 would be anything but sleepy for 'Lizbeth Landers now that she has a mystery to solve.
Treva Hall Melvin has done a marvelous job in writing a murder mystery for young adults. While the story is not limited to the YA mystery genre, the overall story appeals to this particular audience. Her main character, Elizabeth ('Lizbeth) Landers is charismatic as much as she is a teenager in the throes of her teen 'wonder years.' Melvin assigns just enough sass to her young protagonist to keep the story moving forward. She isn't disrespectful, but Melvin is sure to write passage upon passage of nuance toward the age-old theory of: '...seeking forgiveness is certainly easier than asking for permission.' Ms. Melvin has developed a uniqueness to each character and adeptly blends them as a community of personalities that work well together. 'Lizbeth's dialogue is spot-on in that the reader can easily connect with the many 'growing pains' of a fourteen-year-old girl. This is a terrific 'chapter book' for pre-teen and young adults. It has a solid plot, engaging conversation and a tempo that flows from beginning to end. Well done Ms. Martin. I look forward to your next book.
Quill says: The whereabouts of Mr. Samuel's Penny is a mystery that will keep you turning the pages until you find out what has become of it.