On a recent trip to my favorite book store, Cover to Cover, book expert Karen handed me a copy of Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage. As is most often the case, if I haven't read a fiction title I don't buy it so I stopped at the library on my way home and found a copy on the new book shelf. Boy am I glad for Karen and my local library, Three Times Lucky was a real treat and has some of the most memorable characters I've read in a long time.
Miss Moses LeBeau is a sixth grader with a mysterious past in Tupelo Landing, NC. She pretty washed down the river during a hurricane as a baby and was found in the arms of The Captain, another mysterious character who suffers from amnesia. They both live with Miss Lana, a lover of Hollywood and glamor. The story unfolds as Moses looks for her upstream mother by having friends and neighbors drop bottles in the river, hoping her birth mother will find one and fill in the holes in her past.
The Captain and Miss Lana run the local diner where all of the local characters eat most every meal. There's the mayor, Mayor Little, chosen like his family members before him because of his ability to talk to anyone. There's Mr. Jesse, the local grump who lives by himself down by the creek and is always a little cranky. Every one's grandmother, Grandmother Lucy Thornton comes in with her blue suit and shoes which accent her halo like white hair. Finally Mo's best friend, Dale, who helps her out in all of her endeavors including running the diner when The Captain and Miss Lana are both gone.
In addition there is budding NASCAR driver and brother of Dale, Lavender. Moses has a huge crush on Lavender and constantly makes references to the fact that they will be married some day even though he is quite a bit older than she is.
The cast of characters is introduced pretty early in the book, which makes it easy to keep them straight, and then the whole story is thrown into turmoil when a detective from Winston-Salem shows up at the diner investigating a murder. Of course everyone in Tupelo Landing from Azalea Women to Tinks Williams are shocked to hear that there may be a connection between their peaceful little town and a "big city" murder, and Moses and Dale form their own detective agency, The Desperado Detectives to help Detective Starr solve the murder. When Mr. Jesse is mysteriously killed, they kick their investigation into high gear and help to solve the murder mystery and the mystery of The Captain's past.
The story has enough twists an turns to keep the reader interested and Sheila Turnage has written some wonderful Southern characters. The book has mystery, humor, family drama and personal relationships that are believable. I think older readers will enjoy this story of a small southern town and the people who call it home.