Bee Ross – a Nancy Drew devotee and would-be amateur sleuth – takes a summer job in the taxidermy department of the local museum. One day just as she is grappling both with a dead possum and the strange prickly attraction she feels towards Toby, the geeky new guy in the department, her taciturn boss, Gus is found dead, and suddenly, there is a real mystery to solve. Was he murdered? To find out the truth, Bee must dissect a whole body of scientific skulduggery, whilst Toby attempts to play Watson to her Holmes. After the pair get up close and personal on the back of a stuffed tiger, Bee detects more than a frisson of chemistry between them. But she doesn’t know what to do about it. And as for the unsolved murder case, she doesn’t think even Poirot would figure that out. Until a chance remark from her mother’s drippy new Dungeons and Dragons loving boyfriend brings out her inner Agatha Christie.
Set in Australia, and written by a young IBBY Award-winning novelist from Melbourne, this is a thoroughly engaging tale. I was a little bothered by the almost complete lack of a police investigation into Gus’s death and my hackles were a teeny bit raised by the fact that the most unsavoury character in the novel is a Pom with a ‘monotonous English accent’. But only temporarily. For I liked the lack of preamble in the romance between Bee and Toby, who kiss early on and then take a big kangaroo leap back whilst they try and work out exactly what this courtship ritual means. And I liked the fact that Toby has said the word ‘vagina’ by p19 and it has nothing to do with being naughty. For as well as providing the entertainment of a murder mystery, this book is a zoological marvel. It will teach you a lot you probably didn’t know. How butterflies taste. What is so special about horseshoe crab blood. And whereabouts a platypus keeps its venomous spike. As well as ‘something beautiful and a little bit dirty about snails’.