When her father kicks a pushy Yankee realtor off their Florida swampland property and the guy later turns up dead, it turns out to be the opening of a life-changing season for 10-year-old Bones. This children’s book, set in 1949, is a stroll through a time when the color line was drawn with a knife, when kids scrubbed the house screens with DDT, when Florida had never heard of Disney, and when children prefaced every statement to adults with a “yes sir” or a “no ma’am.”
Ashley-Hollinger, who grew up in Florida, nicely evokes the era. Bones and her family and friends are as likable as the bad guys are despicable. I had a tougher time with the sometimes awkward dialogue; the fact that much of the action happens offstage; a stretch when it came to Bones solving the crime… kind of; and a resolution that didn’t do the characters justice. That said, I enjoyed the vivid descriptions of the Florida town life, Bones’s pets, the family’s visit to the Seminole village, and the important role of a brain-injured vet. The heroine’s good-hearted struggles to mature were believable and moving.