At the ripe-old age of 13, Ingrid Levin-Hill could give her fictional idol Sherlock Holmes a run for his money when it comes to solving mysteries.
Beginning with “Down the Rabbit Hole,” Peter Abrahams‘ Echo Falls Mystery series, crime and mysteries run rampant in Ingrid’s hometown of Echo Falls, Conn. The books (three so far with “Behind the Curtain” and “Into the Dark” as the remaining two) follow the eighth-grader as she solves crimes and mysteries and rights wrongs — all the while dealing with the burdens of the average 13-year-old’s life.
Ingrid lives quite a full life — balancing her sleuthing with school, soccer, family, orthodontist appointments, rehearsing for the town’s current play productions and getting to know Joey Strade.
As Ingrid helps Police Chief Gilbert L. Strade (Joey’s father) solve Echo Falls’ crime du jour — from finding who killed Cracked-Up Katie, the town’s own crazy lady, to breaking a steroids ring without getting her brother Ty in trouble to clearing her Grampy’s name when he becomes a murder suspect — she turns to hero for tips and advice. But unlike Holmes, she doesn’t turn to the violin or cocaine to do her deepest thinking, being hopeless at music and having had “the DARE program to set (her) straight.”
In addition to Ingrid, Abrahams other characters — young and old, minor and major — are also well-developed, making it easy for readers to connect with them.
Ingrid’s family is not perfect. Her parents are often busy with work, her brother thinks she’s a bit of a geek and her Grampy is just this side of crazy. They don’t always see eye to eye, have miscommunication issues and get into disagreements and fight just as any family. But they do stand by each other when it matters — even when it seems there is no way to pull them back together.
Ingrid’s friends are also great. There’s Stacy Rubino, whom Ingrid has known for as long as she could remember and shares a love for soccer. Mia McGreevy is Ingrid’s friend from New York, who moved to Echo Falls with her mother after her parents’ divorce.
And as a sucker for romance, I can’t leave out Joey Strade, the boy with whom Ingrid has her first kiss. The two youngsters don’t exactly become a couple, but they do become close, talking on the phone and spending time together during and outside of school. While she admits to missing him, Ingrid does not become silly or girly over whatever is going on between her and Joey. She approaches it maturely and quite matter-of-factly.
Getting to know Joey also means getting to know his father, Chief Strade. While she’s initially intimidated by the chief, she soon gets over it and realizes like with her parents, she doesn’t want to do anything to disappoint him. But it doesn’t always stop her from taking action.
Ingrid is a strong and independent young heroine girls and boys can look up to. Typical of teenagers, her thoughts and actions are sometimes centered around herself, but she is very mindful of others around her and how her actions may affect them. And while she respects authority figures such as her teachers, parents and other adults in her life, she knows they can be wrong. Despite the danger involved in fighting crime, Ingrid isn’t deterred and isn’t afraid to do what she believes is right.