Mall Girl Meets the Shadow Vandal by @KimberlyBaer14 is a Binge-Worthy Festival pick #mglit #mystery
Title: Mall Girl Meets the Shadow Vandal
Author: Kimberly Baer
Genre: Middle-Grade Mystery
Chloe Lamont doesn't live in a neighborhood, like most kids. Her house is in the middle of the mall. And now someone is stealing items from her house and using them to vandalize stores. Who is trying to frame her? And how are they getting into the house?
Desperate to catch the real vandal and clear her name, Chloe seeks help from the kids in her Mystery Reading Group at school. While searching for clues, the Mystery Groupers make an astounding discovery. And then things get really crazy…
View the Mall Girl book trailer.
Robby leans toward me. “Hey. Mall Girl. I have a new theory about your mystery. I’ll tell you at lunchtime.”
He says it softly, but because we’re sitting at desks pushed together, everybody in our little group hears.
“You have a mystery?” says Kenny, perking up. “You mean like a real one?”
“We’re good at solving mysteries,” Kevin adds. “Over the summer our grandpa thought the neighbor’s dog was pooping in his yard. We figured out it was a skunk.”
“We set up a motion-activated video camera,” Kenny continues. “Caught the critter in the act.”
“It was coming into his yard every night to do its business.”
The twins have a pent-up way about them, like wind-up toys that somebody cranked the whole way up and then turned off. They’re quiet most of the time, but once they start talking, it’s like, pow! They spring loose.
“Really?” says Robby. “So how’d your grandpa keep the skunk from pooping in his yard?”
“He didn’t,” says Kenny.
“But at least he stopped blaming the neighbor’s dog,” says Kevin.
“So, what’s the big mystery?” asks a sardonic voice. We all glance over at Ash. Although she dutifully participates in our book discussions, she’s never shown the slightest interest in our personal conversations.
“Yeah, Chloe.” Kevin seconds the motion with a wave of his hand. “I’d like to hear about it.”
I’m a private person. I don’t tell my business to just anybody. But here I am, in a group of people who like mysteries, who have read lots of mystery books—or, in Ash’s case, not-so-many Nancy Drew books. Maybe they’ve absorbed what they’ve read. Maybe they’ve learned to think like detectives. Maybe, just maybe, one of them will come up with an idea Robby and I haven’t thought of.
So I tell them about the Shadow Vandal. I even call him that, because I’ve gotten to like the name. It makes him sound glamorous, like somebody Batman would tangle with.
Kevin and Kenny stare at me intently as I talk, jiggling their knees. Ash is doodling hearts adorned with curlicues all over her tablet like I’m not captivating enough to warrant her full attention. Robby is sitting back with his arms crossed, letting everybody know my story is old news to him.
“So the police don’t have any leads?” asks Kenny when I’ve finished.
“If they do, they’re not saying.”
“Has anything else in your house gone missing?” asks Kevin.
“Just the eggs.”
“It doesn’t make sense,” Kenny says. “Why would this Shadow Vandal break into your house to steal your eggs? Wouldn’t he bring his own?”
“Not if he wasn’t planning to egg the mall,” Kevin replies.
We all look at him.
“Maybe he decided to break in on the spur of the moment,” he says. “The first time, anyway. Once he was in, he was like, ‘Okay, now what?’ And then he thought, ‘Well, maybe I could egg a store.’ Because he remembered how there’s this whole house right there in the mall, which would probably have eggs in the fridge, so…”
“That still doesn’t explain how he got into our house,” I point out.
Ash puts down her pen and looks at Robby. “You said you have a new theory.”
“Yeah.” Robby squirms in his seat. “Chloe might not like this, but…I was thinking maybe her mom’s the guilty party. Like, maybe she’s been walking in her sleep.”
“That’s crazy!” I sputter. “My mother doesn’t walk in her sleep.”
“You think she did the eggings when she was awake?” asks Robby.
I glare at him. That’s even crazier.
“It would explain some things,” Kenny says. “Like how your doors are still bolted in the morning. She unbolts the door when she goes out and bolts it again when she comes back in.”
I shake my head emphatically. “My mother is not the kind of person who would throw eggs. Ever. People don’t do things when they’re asleep that they wouldn’t do when they’re awake.”
“That’s hypnosis,” Ash says. When we look at her quizzically, she goes on, “You’re thinking of hypnosis. They say you can’t make a person do something when they’re hypnotized that they wouldn’t ordinarily do.”
“Yeah, I’ve heard that,” says Robby.
“But is that true about sleepwalking, too?” Kevin asks. “Let’s say you have some good, decent person who never broke the law in their life. Let’s say they start sleepwalking. Could they commit a crime in their sleep?”
“And if they did, would they remember it?” adds Kenny.
“Or would it feel like a dream?” asks Kevin.
“Sleepwalking. Wow,” says Miss Chappell, who has been standing nearby, listening in. “You guys are taking And Then There Were None in a whole new direction! Good for you. You’re thinking outside the box.”
We wait self-consciously for her to wander away.
“You know what I think?” says Ash, glancing from Kenny to Kevin to Robby but skipping me entirely. “I think Chloe’s mom is innocent.”
“Thanks, Ash,” I say, surprised and a little touched that she’s taking my side.
“I think Chloe’s the one who’s been walking in her sleep,” Ash goes on. “I think she’s the Shadow Vandal.”
Buy Links (including Goodreads and BookBub):
What’s the first binge-worthy book you read and why was it a must-read?
The Secret in the Old Attic, by Carolyn Keene. I was seven, and it was my very first Nancy Drew mystery story. I think I read it in a day. There were bad guys and secret passageways, and at one point Nancy was tied up and left in an attic with a loose tarantula (which I now realize is a rather hit-or-miss way of trying to kill somebody). I couldn’t stop turning pages. I had to find out what happened.
What makes your featured book a binge-worthy read?
Ever wonder what it’s like to live at the mall—literally? Twelve-year-old Chloe Lamont wants to tell you all about it—including the mystery that turns her life upside down. Kirkus Reviews calls Mall Girl Meets the Shadow Vandal “A lively, jaunty mystery with a terrific cast of characters.” A five-star Reader’s Favorite review says it’s “A great read full of fun, adventure, mystery, and the trials of making friends.”