Ah, a good old-fashioned children’s ghost story. When is the last time I’ve read or seen one? You know the type where a child has been killed and is searching for just the right person to find the murderer so that she can be at peace. Or something of the sort. It feels as it’s been, well, since the 70s since this plotline was popular. That’s back when I read Nancy Drew books and watched Walt Disney movies. Then along comes Dizzy Miss Lizzie by R.M. Clark. Ah, I’ve missed the genre.
Dizzy Miss Lizzie isn’t an exact replica of that motif, especially considering it doesn’t contain a ghost. The summer Kasey turns thirteen, she meets a girl in the basement of her family’s new creepy house. Kasey learns the girl’s name is Elizabeth Bellows, she lived in the nineteenth century, and she was suspected of burning her family’s house with her parents still in it. But no, she’s not a ghost. When a friendship develops, Kasey begins to wonder if there’s a way to exonerate Elizabeth. Eventually, the intrigue thickens, with even more being at stake than Elizabeth’s good name.
English: Lizzie Borden (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
If you have heard of Lizzie Borden, you may think that Elizabeth’s story sounds familiar. This is not a coincidence, as the fictional Elizabeth lived in the same town and at the same time as the real Lizzie Borden. If you have not heard of Lizzie Borden, I will just say that she is suspected of having done what Elizabeth is accused of–except with an axe. You will learn much more about her in this book.
I loved many aspects of Dizzy Miss Lizzie , starting with main character Kasey Madrid. Kasey feels like a younger version of the smart and good detective Nancy Drew who remains a favorite with girls today, some eighty years after her first appearance. Kasey has very few rebellious bones in her body, but instead gets her kicks by snooping out answers to who exactly is living in her basement, why she’s there, and how can she help her. In fact, Kasey’s so responsible that the summer she turns thirteen, her parents decide she’s old enough to start being more independent. While they do restrict her from watching television and playing video games (gasp!) during their absence, and require her to do a few daily chores for pay, they allow her to stay at home unsupervised until they arrive home from work. Then there’s Kasey’s friend, who is supposedly the “sneakier” of the two. Yet making arrangement for the two to get dropped off a theater, when in reality the two want to make a return visit to a store which contains info about Elizabeth Bellows, is the most dishonest thing Paula does. Yes, the characters are straight-laced, but I found this refreshingly pleasant.
Now here’s where I tell you what I didn’t like, because there are always a few of those with first-time authors. Some stuff is minor, such as odd places where the incorrect tense was used or details were skimped. When I started thinking about it how neatly the pieces of the mystery fit together, a few events sadly begin to feel like contrivances. For example, Kasey’s Portuguese grandmother seems to show up at just the right time a little too often. My biggest issue, however, is with the first chapter. Ironically, I loved it—unfortunately it’s meaningless. It deceptively sets readers up to believe that Dizzy Miss Lizzie is about a middle-school kid who lands in detention by saying an improper word at school. It’s nothing of the sort and Clark shouldn’t tease readers this way. The ending also suffers somewhat from being rushed.
Yet the complete package is what counts, not the little nicks and scratches one might find. Over all, Dizzy Miss Lizzie is an entertaining mystery in the vein of Nancy Drew. A great summer read!
My rating? Read it: Borrow from your library or a friend. It’s worth your time.
How would you rate this book?